Online Brainstorming Session

We need to capitalize on the energy following last night’s “We Will Not Conform” event. Let’s work together to strategize and organize to kick Common Core and all it’s entanglements to the curb!  In the comment section below post your ideas on how to take action now and organize locally. Here are some ideas to start:

  • Make T-shirts
  • Yard Signs
  • T-shirt design contest
  • Hold an organizing convention
  • Organize by District
  • Radio Ads

Comments will only be approved if they’re positive, constructive, and don’t involve name calling.

Responding to the Utah Attorney General’s Report on Common Core

The Utah Attorney General (AG) recently issued a report about Common Core.  I’m grateful that Common Core concerns are receiving much-needed attention, rather than being dismissed as unfounded. I thank the Attorney General for his time spent on this issue.  But the report is egregiously errant.

I’m just a full-time mom, not a lawyer.  Though I have many years of experience teaching in public schools, plus years spent researching ed reforms, I never aimed to rebut a state attorney general’s education report.  But truth is truth and error should not be accepted as fact.

Please study this out for yourself. I’m here to point out and to back up with documentation, the errors and omissions of the A.G.’s  Common Core report.  It’s for you to draw your own conclusions.  It’s for our children to live with what we adults see as truth.

Before I get to the errors and omissions, I will point with gratitude to three key issues that the report correctly clarified:

1)  The report’s first paragraph correctly clarified the fact that the “Utah Core” for K-12 math and English is, in fact, the exact same thing as “Common Core.”  Many have been confused about this fact and some in leadership allow that confusion to continue because they know Common Core has become a toxic term.  But no one need be confused.  The A.G. is correct:  Utah does (unfortunately and voluntarily) adhere to centralized, standardized Common Core standards and tests.

2) The report also  correctly stated that the US Dept. of Education ( by imposing waiver conditions and pushing states to adopt federally approved standards) “has infringed upon local and state authority over public education” and that Utah and other states “consented to this infringement through federal coercion...” (emphasis added).

3) The report correctly said that “Utah has the legal ability to repeal” Common Core.  Most people already knew that Utah CAN withdraw from Common Core; our point has always been that we REQUEST that our state will indeed withdraw from Common Core.

The Attorney General’s report wrongly concludes three main things, which I will afterward explain in detail:

1) That adoption of Common Core followed the rule of law; that the parent-teacher lawsuit –brought against the state’s decision to adopt Common Core without proper vetting– holds no water and that the board’s adoption of Common Core was legal;  that Common Core standards do not qualify as rules –so the UARA’s rulemaking process did not need to be followed;

2) That Utah has not ceded authority nor lost local control over its education system via the Common Core Initiative; and that there are no groups that now hold direct or indirect control over Utah’s education system;

3) That Common Core does not impact curriculum.

  1.   The report incorrectly states that the board’s adoption of Common Core followed the rule of law, using “a very public process” and that it was not illegal in any way.  That question will soon be determined in a Utah court.  The lawsuit to which the report referred–in which parents and teachers are suing the board over its method of adopting Common Core– is still a live, active lawsuit.

Connor Boyack of Libertas Institute (the institution supporting the lawsuit) was correctly quoted by the Deseret News, saying, “Specific behavior was required of the board that was not done. That is the basis of our lawsuit, and that was not responded to by the attorney general.  Our allegations still stand and we’re confident that a judge will determine that the board, in fact, did not comply with the law.”

The A.G. came to a different conclusion not only from that of Libertas Institute but also from U.S. Department of Education secretary Arne Duncan, who noted that Utah’s state school board and many other states very quickly, quietly adopted Common Core “without studying it, without writing a white paper on it,” without consulting with the teachers, administrators and others whose careers would forever be altered by it.

This clearly goes against our state’s law.

As a public school teacher whose credential has never lapsed out of date, I can attest that when Common Core came to Utah, neither I nor any teacher, to my knowledge, received so much as a letter or an email consulting with or discussing or debating or communicating the fact that a decision was in process, nor announcing any potential positive or negative consequences of the decision.  Local school boards can and have attested that they were likewise left out of the decision.   Millions of public school parents can testify that there was no “very public process”.  Although parents often get  letters, robocalls and emails about school pajama day, the fall carnival, community council elections and many other issues, it was only long after the state had agreed to Common Core (and its associated data, testing and evaluation reforms) that parents and teachers became aware of what it was and how it would change our lives forever.  Teachers and the general public would have had to have been actively scouring the state office of education website on a weekly basis (–and why would they?)  –to have come across any invitation for public discussion or feedback on this huge, transformative issue.

The report also falsely states that prior to adoption of Common Core, Utah was an active participant in the creation of Common Core standards.  This claim is not backed up with evidence of any kind. Listening to the minutes of the state school board meetings surrounding adoption of Common Core reveals that the claim is far from true.

Last, there’s the reference to Utah’s  UARA  which defines rules and rulemaking.  The A.G.’s report correctly states that a plausible case can be made that  because Utah is now ruled by Common Core’s rules, the rulemaking process should have been followed, and was not. UARA defines a rule as a statement by an agency (in our case, the USOE/school board) which implicitly or explicitly requires some class of people or agencies (in our case, school system employees)  to obey it; a statement that implements or interprets law (in this case both state and federal law, even though the federal government does not have constitutional authority to make education laws– since it has done so and it uses money to control states’ obedience to these unauthorized laws and policies, and now Common Core-implementing state laws are congruent with Common Core education reforms as well).

Common Core standards must be considered rules since the state school board and USOE mandate statewide adherence to its benchmarks and tests, and the legislature specifically mandates  teacher and school evaluation using Common Core computer adaptive testing.

But the A.G.’s report oddly states that because Utah law does not define the meaning of the term “standard,”  the standards aren’t really rules so the rulemaking process was correctly skipped over. That defies common sense, and research.  Teachers and administrators rely on USOE/USSB statements on Common Core to interpret and implement education law and policy.  Common Core is mandated by the legislature’s Common Core CAT testing laws, and adherence to Common Core was partial payment for receipt of federal waivers, monies and technologies; it was parceled with federal No Child Left Behind waivers, ARRA grant obligations, SBAC (Utah’s former) testing grants, and the federal SLDS grant, each of which helped bind Utah schools, teachers and students to Common Core and common data standards.

  1. The report incorrectly states that Utah has NOT ceded authority over standards and curriculum.  Utah ceded her authority by adopting Common Core, in several ways:

Way one:  Utah has no vote or voice in the revisions to “its own” common core standards.  Utah did not write Common Core.  Neither did any other state. Common Core was never, despite its marketing claims, a state-led process.  The creator-copyrighters of Common Core were two unelected, nonpublic groups— unaccountable-to-voters groups, cannot-be-influenced-by-voters groups; closed-door, private D.C. groups, that go by the misleadingly governmental-sounding titles of “National Governors’ Association” (NGA) and “Council of Chief State School Officers” (CCSSO).  NGA and CCSSO are private clubs–  they are nongovernmental, and not all governors nor all superintendents choose to belong to NGA/CCSSO; in fact, some U.S. governors and state superintendents avoid the NGA and CSSSO like the plague.

The power of the NGA and CCSSO over standards and education policy in many states is the prime example of education without representation.

Way two:  Utah cannot vote for those who have authority to revise or change Common Core.  And we know that Common Core IS going to change.

Utah’s Common Core standards are under copyright by NGA/CCSSO.  Utah can’t influence who gets hired by NGA/CCSSO or what policies get created in those closed-door meetings.  Utah can’t participate in any amendment meetings when Common Core “living work” standards get altered and revised, which the copyright holders  have promised to do.   The standards state:  “The Standards are intended to be a living work. As new and better evidence emerges, the Standards will be revised accordingly.”

Way three:  The CCSSO –significantly– has also created the Common Educational Data Standards (CEDS), in partnership with the federal department of education, to match up with the Common Core standards technologically as well as academically.  Utah promised the federal government to adhere to CEDS tracking technologies in such documents as   Utah schools’ 2009 ARRA federal grant application,  which is fully explained and linked here.  Because our federally paid-for State Longitudinal Database System is also (per federal grant requirement) interoperable with federal systems, and because our Common education standards and Common data standards match the CCSSO’s CEDS requirements, student privacy and state autonomy over data systems are also no longer in our control.  Truly, control over student data privacy is threatened via the interdependence of Common Core standards and federal Common data standards.

Way four:  Utah’s statewide SAGE/AIR Common Core tests enforce the Common Core being taught in Utah schools and the Common data standards (CEDS) being used in Utah schools.  SAGE/AIR are Common Core-led, computer adaptive tests which are not only end-of-year but year-round formative tests, controlled and created by the American Institutes for Research (AIR) with token help from a handful of appointed Utah teachers.  AIR is officially partnered with both the federal government and the SBAC (federally-funded testing consortium).  This means that the micromanagement of tests and the sharing of student level data –to which the SBAC is subject by contract– also binds AIR-partnered Utah.  Utah students must be tested on Common Core standards using SAGE/AIR tests, which are secretive in nature, written by psychometricians with a mission statement that focuses on applying behavioral and social science research, and which follow the Common Core copyrighters’ philosophies.  Test cannot be seen (because of secrecy rules) by those governed and tested and evaluated by them.

All of these controls do fetter Utah citizens to federal dictates, and each rests on the Common Core standards.

  1. The report incorrectly states that Common Core impacts only standards and not curriculum..  Because the state Common Core tests (aka SAGE tests) are not only year-end, but formative (year-round) tests, they impact curriculum very much– much more than any previous statewide testing did.  Because state and federal reforms have now attached teacher evaluations and school evaluations directly to student scores on these Common Core tests, teachers must choose from an ever-narrowing spectrum of curriculum that teaches to the test more than ever before.  The SBAC testing group, which is partnered with Utah’s AIR testing group, and Microsoft (Bill Gates’ company) which is partnered with Pearson (the world’s largest education sales products company) each offer Common Core test-matched curriculum, and Utah schools and technologies are purchasing them over other products, because the board mandated that Common Core would be Utah’s Core.

Lead Common Core funder Bill Gates revealed in a speech, “Identifying common standards is just the starting point.  We’ll only know if this effort has succeeded when the curriculum and tests are aligned to these standards… When the tests are aligned to the common standards, the curriculum will line up as well. And it will unleash a powerful market of people providing services…  For the first time there will be a large, uniform base of customers looking at using products…”

The A.G.’s report also omits key concerns, including:

  1. Copyright and control of Common Core-  The report ought to have clarified who truly controls and holds copyright over the Common Core standards and its related data standards, and who has authority to revise them.  Neither voters, nor elected representatives,  nor local teachers, nor Utah’s State school Board, but only the nonpublic D.C. group, NGA/CCSSO, controls them.)  As has been stated, there is no amendment process for our state to revise the “living work” of Common Core, by which we are now governed, although these standards will be revised by its copyrighters.
  2.  The State Duty to Educate Locally- While the report is correct in saying that the federal government coerced states into adopting its definition of college and career ready standards with the hope of getting federal money, the report does not stand up and say that Utah is under a constitutional obligation to stand up for the right to educate via local dictates.  The A.G.’s report does not recommend that Utah cease being controlled by and unreasonably swayed by federal money.  It apparently accepts Utah’s seeming submissiveness to the federal (unconstitutional) posture of authority over education.  If the A.G.’s office has not itself adopted the submissive mindset under the federal posture of (unauthorized) authority, then the report should have recommended that Utah fight for a reclaiming of state power over all aspects of education.  If Utah’s A.G. believes in the constitutional separation of powers and in the importance of maintaining local control of the constitutionally state-held right and responsibility over state education — then the report should have focused on that point rather than sidelining it as an historical, water-under-the-bridge detail.  Nor did the report recommend standing in solidarity with Oklahoma, a state which recently repealed Common Core and has faced federal power grabbing struggles as a result.

The report said, “Will we lose federal monies if we modify Common Core standards? No.”

That is a half-truth.  Utah didn’t lose federal monies by adding cursive to Utah’s English standards in addition to Common Core, true.  But if we make more than minimal additions (there’s a 15% cap on adding to Common Core) or if we aim to repeal the whole enchilada we end up with severe federal pushback as has been demonstrated in the case of Washington state and Oklahoma.  We should, of course, still hold the line of state authority and ignore the pretended authority of Secretary Duncan.

III.  The State Board’s Constitutional Duty to Not Cede Its Authority – The report correctly states that the school board has the authority to set standards, and that the board “is the appropriate constitutional body” to withdraw from Common Core, based on the Utah Constitution‘s words:  “The general control and supervision of the public school system shall be vested in a state board of education consisting of the Superintendent of Public Instruction and such other persons as the legislature may provide.”  True.

But nowhere in Utah’s Constitution does it say that the board, superintendent and other persons may give away or delegate  that “general control and supervision of the public school system”.

Conclusion:

The Attorney General’s report receives an “F” in my gradebook.  It simply veers so far from the truth that it cannot be taken as correct.

I don’t expect to hear from the Attorney General’s office, apologizing for the errors.  I don’t expect the state school board members nor those education staffers at the Governor’s office who openly call me and other teachers and parents “crazy” to suddenly fact-check, turn around and be enlightened.  I simply wrote this piece for other people like me– people who care about the truth, people who aren’t financially rewarded by and tied to the claim that Common Core is the One True Path, people who value this knowledge, to better protect and educate their children and to possibly have a chance at saving some of the local control that is our Constitutional inheritance.

–Christel Swasey

Another ASD Principal Gets Political – John Burton’s turn

Orem High School Principal Mike Browning sent this email out to faculty on Tuesday, which looks very appropriate.

From: Mike Browning_ohs <mbrowning@alpinedistrict.org>
Date: Tue, Oct 28, 2014 at 3:31 PM
Subject: Politics and Public Education
To: OHSFaculty <ohsfaculty@alpinedistrict.org>

Just a quick reminder that as we enter the election window, ASD employees are encouraged to study the issues and involve themselves in the political process.  Since questions occasionally arise regarding appropriate political involvement by school employees, the following reminders may be helpful:

  • Engaging in political activities during contract time or at school functions by district employees or school parent councils is not appropriate.
  • Employees may engage in political activity as private citizens as long as the activity does not involve the use of public funds (equipment, Internet connections, and supplies).
  • Political information should not be displayed or distributed via schools.

Great work on a successful first term of the school year!  Have a good week,

The problem is, Mr. Browning is a hypocrite.

ASD_cardASD_card2I spoke with a teacher last night who informs me that at the faculty meeting at the beginning of October, Mr. Browning told the faculty that he is very involved in politics and that he had a meet the candidate event at his home and one of the candidates is critical in some regard to some issues in Alpine School District (it was unclear if Chris Jolley had actually been invited to this event). He then pulled  out a card (pictured at the left) and proceeded to say how great the Alpine School District is and what it gives to the communities.

This teacher explained to me, “Mr. Browning said, here we have PLCs, collaboration, and such, and encouraged us to have the cards in our wallet and when people were critical of the Alpine School District show them that we support the district and what it does for us and for our communities. While Mr. Browning’s speech wasn’t “technically” a political speech his words were almost, exactly the same as what was said by Mr. Conley in his now infamous very political email sent to his faculty. It is very evident that both of these principals got their information from the same sources, mainly the administrators in the district.  I came away from that faculty meeting knowing full well where Alpine District’s wants were concerning this upcoming election. It’s very evident that the district is on a public relations push to show just how much good the district is doing and that major changes are not needed. This is a way, non-political of course, to show where they stand concerning the upcoming elections. The cards, the words to the principals, which are trickling down to the teachers, all show that the district administration is very concerned about the possible change of direction if John Burton and JoDee Sundberg are voted out.”

 

Here’s some more information that came out after yesterday’s post. It appears current Board President and former long time Alpine School District administrator John Burton may have his own set of problems to deal with. Rick Armknecht posted this in the comments section.

Sadly, the emails shown here may include violations of law on the part of a great many public servants.

Look at the “To” section of the principal’s email: genevastaff@alpinedistrict.org, genevateachers@alpinedistrict.org, jsundberg@alpinedistrict.org, John.Burton@UVU.edu, jcbates@alpinedistrict.org, kbird@alpinedistrict.org

ALL of these recipients were put on notice of the principal’s illegal campaigning as of last Friday (the 24th) morning (assuming that they read their emails every 2 hours or so during work hours). What did they do about it? Looks like one became a “whistle blower.”   But what about the others? IF they read the email sent to them and IF they knew (or reasonably SHOULD HAVE KNOWN) about the illegality of the email AND if their position would imply that they DO something to stop the illegal conduct but they failed to take any action (yes, I know — a string of “ifs” there), then there is a violation of Utah law:

  • 76-8-101. Definitions

For the purposes of this chapter:

. . .

(5)          (a)          “Public servant” means any officer or employee of the state or any political subdivision of the state, including judges, legislators, consultants, and persons otherwise performing a governmental function.

  • 76-8-201. Official misconduct – Unauthorized acts or failure of duty A public servant is guilty of a class B misdemeanor if, with an intent to benefit himself or another or to harm another, he knowingly commits an unauthorized act which purports to be an act of his office, or knowingly refrains from performing a duty imposed on him by law or clearly inherent in the nature of his office.

So: What did John Burton know and when did he know it?

It seems to me that ASD has a pattern of doing what they want without any fear of repercussion. The ends (them maintaining power at all costs) justifies the means (violations of ethics and the law, particularly in the case of Ms. Sundberg and Principal Conley). Will there be enforcement of the law? It’s doubtful unless people rise up and say the law matters.

If Mr. Burton is OK with knowing this is going on under his watch as a publicly elected school board member and having been a long time administrator at ASD, he should resign his position and withdraw from the ballot. Nobody knows election ethics more than school administrators and the fact that this is knowingly allowed and even encouraged by inaction is a big problem.

ASD Board Member in Panic Mode – Uses Shocking Tactics

State School Board Candidate Joel Wright in District 9 posted these shocking screenshots to Facebook exposing a pretty clear cut case of unethical engagement by ASD board member JoDee Sundberg and a principal who in turn appears to have violated election laws to support JoDee’s campaign.

What you can read below is a textbook case of how the entrenched establishment works. They elect someone like JoDee Sundberg or John Burton who do anything the district asks of them, and then to get re-elected, turn to the establishment to protect them. They are a massive political party that citizens have an extremely difficult time defeating. What you are about to read is yet another major reason for partisan school board elections in Utah so that citizens have an opportunity to run for school board and be vetted by a smaller number of elected delegates who can dig into a candidate and ignore the sound bites and get to the heart of issues.

Read the fear that fills these emails. They are in full panic mode. The game plan never changes…total fearmongering against those who think independently and challenge the status quo.  Look at the nonsense that Wendy Hart’s opponent has published about her, causing Wendy to write a full rebuttal (particularly troubling after she had the nerve to walk out before the debate last week).

http://wendy4asd.blogspot.com/2014/10/why-have-school-board-taxation-without.html

Start with JoDee Sundberg’s letter below as she pleads for help to school employees on their school email accounts, endangering numerous ASD employees and unethically asking them to engage their subordinates. Then Principal Keith Conley responds trying to rally the troops using his school email account and engages in extreme statements and instructs his subordinates how to vote. No facts, just fear. The sky is falling if they don’t retain their power.

State law prohibits the activities of the principal. ASD’s policies have also been violated and both JoDee Sundberg (16 years on the board – can’t feign ignorance) and Principal Conley know it.

From ASD’s own policy manual:

Rules and Regulations No. 4100 (http://policy.alpinedistrict.org/policy/4100_Internet-Wide_Area_Network_Acceptable_Use_Rule)

“1.1.3 Internet services provided by the school district are not intended for personal, political or private use. Employees have no expectation of privacy associated with the use of the Internet.”

And No. 4060.1 (http://policy.alpinedistrict.org/policy/4060.1_Association_Rights_Policy)

“1.2.1 While on paid leave, certified employees may not engage in political activity including:

1.2.1.1 Actively campaigning for candidates for public office in partisan and nonpartisan elections.

1.2.1.2 Fundraising for political organizations, political parties, or candidates.”

What’s the punishment for doing so when not on leave?

Take Action – Read below and then call/write

1) Now please call the Lt. Governor’s office since Lt. Gov. Cox is in charge of elections violations. If he fails to take immediate action and waits till after the election, it will embolden the establishment that they are a law unto themselves and can get away with anything. They already have this attitude. This seems like a pretty clear violation of the law and involves a superior pressuring subordinates to take action, and using public taxpayer equipment and resources to campaign for a specific candidate.

Call Lt. Gov. Cox at: 800-995-VOTE

Write him at: http://www.utah.gov/ltgovernor/contact/

2) Then call Governor Herbert and make sure he steps up and enforces the law. The Governor cannot simply brush this off. Tell him to support partisan elections. His office can be reached at 801-538-1000.

3) Finally, if you’re able, attend Alpine School District’s board meeting Tuesday night at Westfield Elementary (380 S. Long Drive, Alpine, Utah) at 6:00 PM. You must sign up prior to the meeting starting to make public comment so be a few minutes early if you’d like to ask how ASD handles infractions of their policies particularly when a school board member and principal are involved.

Here’s the stunning exchange. Summary follows:

 

ASD letter

asd letter 1 asd letter 2 asd letter 3

What do you think? Is JoDee’s email ethical? Would you vote for her? Here’s a quick bullet list of a sitting board member communicating with ASD principals whose livelihood can be affected by board decisions.

  • I need your teachers’ help
  • I need them to walk neighborhoods and campaign for me
  • They need to share a message about how wonderful the schools are because of my efforts because my opponent will destroy it all if he’s elected
  • Also I need our other service personnel and administrators to help
  • If our teachers won’t help, I NEED TO KNOW and my campaign is sunk
  • My opponent will dismantle ASD because he’s an extremist while I am completely objective and normal
  • I am visiting SCHOOL COMMUNITY COUNCILS (another election law violation for SCC’s that don’t give equal time to all opponents)
  • I need the teachers to vote and take 5 people with them
  • I know I’m begging you but I need your help
  • I need your money and John Burton needs your money
  • After a meeting where Wendy Hart had the nerve to bring up state laws she’d researched about clubs engaged in sexual topics, we barely passed the motion to support the gay/straight alliance club, and if I’m not re-elected things will get much worse

No summary of Principal Conley’s letter is needed. Unfortunately, this principal has crossed the line.

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

Please everyone, get out the vote for Maynard Olsen in Orem, Wendy Hart in Alpine, Highland, and Cedar Hills, and Chris Jolly in American Fork.

 

How Common Core Is Creating a Generation of Low-Information Voters

This comment was posted to Facebook by Jared Carman and I wanted to make sure it got wider notice so it’s here for your information. Jared serves on the Utah instructional materials committee and so he receives significant amounts of books throughout the year to review.

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

How Common Core Is Creating a Generation of
Less-informed Voters

(What I learned reviewing over 500 Common Core books from all the major publishers)

***

LEARNING 101: Kids learn what they practice.

In a typical Common Core practice item, children as young as 6 and 7 are given two “opinion” passages to read, usually on a social issue of some kind. The passages are short. The children are directed to read the passages, form “their own” opinion, based on one of the passages (an inherently biased exercise, but that’s a separate issue), then ADVOCATE for their opinion in writing, using information from the opinion pieces as supporting evidence. Net, net: Read little to no actual information, then form your own opinion, supported another person’s opinion.

Consider the following:
– The word “opinion” or “argument” is mentioned 38 times in the 110 Common Core writing standards.
– Under Common Core, opinion-forming practice and testing is required for EVERY student in every grade, even Kindergarten.
– “Opinion writing” testing is a central feature of the SAGE/Common Core tests.

(Source: http://www.corestandards.org/assets/CCSSI_ELA%20Standards.pdf)

What do you get when you combine low-info opinion practice, with messages (from the “informational texts”) to organize, resist, influence, strike, stand up, sit in, and vote, vote, vote…and you do this regularly for thirteen years?

An entire generation of highly-opinionated, less-informed voters.

 

Alyson Williams, one of the parent reviewers of SAGE tests, made this comment in the same thread:

That is the SAGE writing assessment. I saw no other format… the student must read several excerpts, and argue in writing one point of view or the other citing directly from the provided passages to support her argument. While many parents were concerned about the content (recall the examples last year of books vs. video games) I am concerned that even with neutral content the repetition of this kind of writing practice over and over for years, especially when it is computer graded by a technically limited rubric, is not a very valuable exercise to great writing (or thinking) rather conditioning a test-taking skill at best. Worse, however is that it seems likely to result in a generation of people who are not independently seeking truth and employing classical logic or analytical thinking, but willing to form opinions without in-depth knowledge or greater context but on the carefully edited ideas served up in the digest form of popular media.

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

Random Quote

“I believe that the school is primarily a social institution. Education being a social process, the school is simply that form of community life in which all those agencies are concentrated that will be most effective in bringing the child to share in the inherited resources of the race, and to use his own powers for social ends. I believe that education, therefore, is a process of living and not a preparation for future living.” — John Dewey, My Pedagogic Creed, January 1897

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