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.
This is the second in a series of posts to be added by members of Utah’s Common Core SAGE test’s parent review board. Parent Molly Hunter spoke out previously and is joined now by fellow mom Christine Ruiz as a SAGE parent review committee member who also wishes to set the record straight and to expose the objectionable aspects of the tests.
SAGE Parent Review Committee Member Speaks Out
By Christine Ruiz
In 2013 the Utah Legislature mandated parental review of SAGE test questions and established what is now called the SAGE Parent Review Committee. It was a response to concerns that the computer adaptive tests could include biases or agendas that are objectionable to Utah family values.
Much has been written about the committee and unfortunately some of it has been misleading. Consequently many Utah parents are misinformed about the review committee and are making decisions with that ‘bad information’; decisions that affect their children.
I am one of those committee members and I’d like to correct the record.
The statute, 53A-1-603, is vague as it relates to our duties; “…a committee consisting of 15 parents of Utah public education students to review all computer adaptive test questions.” Yep, that’s it. Talk about your nutshell.
So, here’s what we did and didn’t do.
WE DID review all questions (about 1500 each).
WE DID flag questions for a variety of reasons (grammar, typos, content, wrong answers, glitches, etc.).
WE DID sign nondisclosure statements (agreeing not to discuss specific test questions and materials).
Now the important part …
WE DID NOT ‘approve’ the test. We were neither tasked to nor qualified to approve the test in any aspect.
It has been erroneously suggested that “…we all feel comfortable with the test” in an article by the Deseret News (Nov 2013). That’s a misleading quote from only one member of the committee. That statement was actually contradicted by another member later in the same article. But it’s no surprise here; we expect that from the media.
However, the Utah State Office of Education (USOE) perpetuated that myth when it plastered that same quote all over its SAGE informational brochures. We/ I expect more due diligence from USOE.
I never received a phone call to verify that I concurred and I suspect the same is true for the rest of the committee. It was either an act of deliberate deceit or jaw-dropping negligence to tell parents across the state that the Parent Review Committee gives its blanket approval of the test. Neither option comforts me in the slightest.
I shudder to think that some parents may have decided to let their children take the SAGE because ‘we’ said it’s okay. That’s on me and every other committee member that feels the same as I, and didn’t speak out sooner.
This myth and any others perpetrated in the future will no longer go unanswered by this committee member. That’s a promise.
state statute 53A‐1‐603
(a) The State Board of Education shall establish a committee consisting of 15 parents of Utah
public education students to review all computer adaptive test questions.
(b) The committee established in Subsection (8)(a) shall include the following parent members:
(i) five members appointed by the chair of the State Board of Education;
(ii) five members appointed by the speaker of the House of Representatives; and
(iii) five members appointed by the president of the Senate.
(c) The State Board of Education shall provide staff support to the parent committee.
(d) The term of office of each member appointed in Subsection (8)(b) is four years.
(e) The chair of the State Board of Education, the speaker of the House of Representatives, and
the president of the Senate shall adjust the length of terms to stagger the terms of committee
members so that approximately 1/2 of the committee members are appointed every two
(f) No member may receive compensation or benefits for the member’s service on the committee.
Email from Molly Foster (written to the other members of the 15-parent committee to review SAGE test questions)
… In the spring when I was made aware of the USOE putting words in my mouth I contacted Judy Park several times, through email and phone messages to no avail until I sent a more honest email to her one day, she immediately responded. I will enclose our emailed conversation.
…The results of the SAGE test across the state were not surprising for the 5 Supers I spoke to in southern Utah. Judy Park herself told them in training that the students would fail until they got all the curriculum aligned, this could take years, and quite frankly by then they will have another mandatory program they are shoving down each district’s throat, keeping everybody busy testing instead of teaching, and most importantly nurturing human relationships within their own schools and communities… Let’s not forget that the test scores are also tied to school grades, and teacher performance pay.
(Oak note: As we have repeated said, the problem with Common Core isn’t so much the standards, but the federal overreach and takeover of our education system. This latest development should be a major wake up call to all of Utah.)
Christel Swasey wrote this post at:
Have you seen the new regulations that just came out of the White House?
Americans who see these must run screaming to legislators for protection against the Department of Education.
The new regulations declare that Secretary Arne Duncan will amend ESEA to “phase out the authority of States to define modified academic achievement standards and develop alternate assessments based on those modified academic achievement standards in order to satisfy ESEA accountability requirements. These amendments will permit, as a transitional measure, States that meet certain criteria to continue to administer alternate assessments… for a limited period of time.”
“Phasing out the authority of the states” has been precisely the point for every last one of Duncan’s promoted education reforms, from Common Core to Common Data Standards to State Longitudinal Database Systems to P-20 programs to Common Core Assessments to teacher and school evaluations.
Utahns Against Common Core have been pointing out this phase-out of local authority for over two years. Others have been saying it for decades.
But fat cats (Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce, School Improvement Network, Prosperity 2020, Education First, Pearson Inc., Microsoft) –each of whom wants to sell fat educational products to the fat, “uniform customer base of Common Core” (as Gates put it) will not listen, and will mock and scorn critics because they want to get fatter and fatter on the taxpayer’s dime.
Why does such a supposedly conservative state allow the educational authority of the state to be “phased out” –because of businesses’ greed and lack of care for our children? Where are our children’s educational defenders when we need them? Where is the action behind all the flag-waving speeches that we’ve heard, now, Governor Herbert, Education Advisor Pyfer, Senator Stephenson, Representative Powell?
Why doesn’t our Governor, our legislature, our state school board, lift a finger to fight for our Constitutional right to educational self governance?
I cannot understand the apathy and the complacency and the tolerance– even at the legislative level– of all reforms aligned to the Common Core.
Is it not tragically crazy that we, as a state, willingly allow liberties –guaranteed under the supreme law of the land– to slip so easily out of our lives? We allow ourselves to be lied to by our leaders, who cradle these education reform lies in positive, appealing language, and only for one reason: cash flow. Not for our children, at all.
When will Utah, when will America, wake up to this devastation of liberty and education?
Last week, an 8th grade class in St. George began the day with this excerpt on the board………. Kudos to the student who took these photos and shared them with her mom! Please note this is not Common Core, just the secular humanism religion that is allowed in our public schools.
Getting ready for the Agency-Based Education conference this weekend has been a big job and made it harder to send out updates but there is a ton that has been happening. If you are not on the UACC Facebook Group, all of these have been posted there in the last week or so. Join now if you want up to date information about what’s happening. This post will need to last you for the next week or so, so just keep returning here and read the next item. The critical ones have a * next to them.
*Dr. Gary Thompson: SAGE/Common Core Tests Break Basic Codes of Test Ethics (Why SAGE testing is not only harmful but violates ethical standards)
*Gates Is at It Again: The Common Core-Centered “Collaborative for Student Success” (I never thought I’d say this… Thank goodness for the Huffington Post. This article lays it all bare. Read it, share it.)
*Leaked Letter: Utah Teachers’ Evaluations (Pay) Will Depend On Common Core Test Scores in 2015 (Hello and welcome to Common Core’s enforcement mechanism)
*VP of College Board’s AP U. S. History Course Discredited (Gotta love a good takedown)
*Video: NJ Symposium to Stop Common Core: Drs. Stotsky, Tienken, Pesta, Williams, Borelli and Borelli (from a recent conference, watch some great videos here)
States Listen as Parents Give Rampant Testing an F (about standardized testing in Florida)
DOJ grants $63 million for social justice school discipline promoted by Bill Ayers (shocking, I know)
Be “That Parent” (this one will motivate you)
Your children deserve better than this, first-grade teachers tell parents (stop high-stakes testing on little kids)
What missing class in Kindergarten means for high school (There are a variety of reasons children miss school. However, ending compulsory education laws would do more to ensure children were enticed to school, rather than enforcement mechanisms and social programs to make sure children don’t miss.)
This is a must read op-ed. Then please send it to your legislators, and state and local school board members. Ask local schools and district boards to stop all use of the SAGE test in your schools except as required by state law. Ask the state board and lawmakers to completely scrap the use of this test and eliminate it from the state. It is child abuse.
You can find your legislator here: http://le.utah.gov/GIS/findDistrict.jsp
Find your local school board members on your district website.
Charter school people should contact their charter schools and tell them to drop the test or you will homeschool or put your child in a school that respects your authority over your child’s education.
Read the op-ed by teacher Debbie Nichols here:
Unbelievably, more teachers in Alpine School District continue to violate Utah election law and Alpine School District policies (See previous 1, previous 2). At this point, who knows how many schools this is happening in. Highland City Council member Rod Mann posted the below emails which he obtained, to Facebook over the weekend. He gave me permission to reprint his letter which was sent to the Lt. Gov., Utah county clerk, and ASD Superintendent Vern Henshaw. His letters are below these letters from a fourth grade teacher at Meadow elementary showing clear violations of the law. It seems clear that the principal and other administrators must also support these actions as she wrote the names on the faculty lounge whiteboard for everyone to see. Further, after sending out an email to the rest of the school on the 21st, she continued to send emails on the 28th and 30th. The failure of the principal to stop this action shows she was complicit with the actions of this teacher.
The Lt. Governor’s office, 800-995-VOTE, write him at: http://www.utah.gov/ltgovernor/contact/, email@example.com
Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes: (801) 366-0260
Utah County Attorney Jeff Buhman: 801-851-8026
Utah County Clerk Bryan Thompson: firstname.lastname@example.org
ASD Superintendent Vern Henshaw: email@example.com
and ask your ASD board member how such violations of election law and district policy are handled.
Seems to me that this is an institutionalized method for electing rubber stamps to the board. There is only one solution. Enforce the law, and enact partisan school board elections so that locally elected representatives can vet candidates for inclusion on the ballot and not let the establishment run the campaigns of selected candidates using taxpayer dollars.
Please help get out the vote for Wendy Hart, Chris Jolley, and Maynard Olsen tomorrow. They will represent the public interest.
Rod Mann’s post from Facebook, used with permission.
I am sorry to say that today I saw copies of 3 additional emails that violate ASD policy and state election law. Here is the email I just send to Superintendent Henshaw with copies to the the Lt. Governor and the County Clerk along with pictures of the emails.
“Superintendent Henshaw, Lt. Governor Cox, and County Clerk Thompson
Last week I sent you the note below regarding information that was brought up at the recent school ASD board meeting. Today I am sorry that I became aware of 3 additional emails (see attached files) that were sent out from Alpine District Email addresses to recipients using an Alpine District Email distribution list. They promote a specific set of candidates, an inferred set of candidates, helped to organize a campaign event for a specific candidate and indicated that specific candidate names were posted on a white board in the faculty lounge of a school. I am pretty sure that these are all violations of ASD policy and I am guessing that they are also violations of state election law. You’ll notice that most the content of one of the emails is from the AEA. The problem with this one is that a school employee used an ASD email account to forward this information using an ASD Distribution List.
As I said in the email below I have a separate concern if you first hear of such violations from people outside the district. This would indicate that teachers and staff are either 1) ignorant of district policy and state election laws, or 2) are afraid of directly reporting violations, and/or 3) are willfully violating district policy and election law to ensure that the “right” outcome occurs.
It would appear that you have a serious problem with campaign policy and law in the district. I would hope that these get fixed. Please be aware that regardless of the outcome of the election I will use my best efforts to ensure that legislative policies are enacted that will serve as a more effective deterrent than the current code allows.
I would hope that in the meantime that the district would be more rigorous in informing teachers and staff about ASD policy and state election law and then find a means to deter future violations. I would also hope that the county and state would look into what appears a systemic problem with government resources being used to influence election results. Also, I believe there is a good chance that a hostile work environment exists for those teachers who do not agree with the AEA.
—— Original Message ——
From: “Rod Mann” <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Cc: email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org
Sent: 10/28/2014 10:27:23 PM
Subject: Campaign emails using Alpine District Resources
Hello Superintend Henshaw,
I attended the board meeting this evening and just want to share with you my point of view on the emails. The board is clearly divided on some issues and that is not bad. Healthy discussion generally creates better solutions. Reading the recent email from board vice president JoDee Sundberg to district personnel (I’m assuming it was to all principals) and Keith Conley’s (principal of Geneva Elementary School) email indicating to staff and teachers who they should support as well as recounting a teacher/staff meeting where he distributed campaign information, shows the strong personal animus that is being propagated throughout district personnel. This is not healthy discussion.
The emails support a viewpoint that the district has its own agenda and uses tax payer resources to ensure that candidates who support that agenda are elected. I would expect you to be very concerned if the first you heard of the email was through the Internet/Facebook. This would mean that no recipient of either Mrs. Sundberg’s or Mr. Conley’s email and no one who attended the meeting Mr. Conley references had the courage to share this information with you as a violation of district policy and/or state election law. How sad it would be if someone who might have considered reporting this was dissuaded from doing so out of fear of potential repercussions (after all the board vice-president seemingly encouraged the behavior).
The principal not only encouraged his staff and teachers to violate policy, he also broke trust with the community he serves by using his time at work and district resources, paid for by all tax payers, to actively work against some of them — in other words he used the resources of government to try and impose his personal (and Mrs. Sundberg’s) will on those he serves. I understand that the Lt. Governor has spoken with you and that an apology to those Mr. Conley sent the email to will be forth coming. The seems insufficient. If an apology will be written, it should be a public apology to all those whose trust he violated and whose funds he misused. I can’t help but wonder if this is the first time this happened. Is an apology enough to prevent it from happening again? I’m not sure. If I was willing to violate district policy and/or state law to accomplish a mission and I knew that if caught I would simply have to apologize, I doubt I would be deterred from acting.
That a board member would abuse her authority and encourage district personnel to violate district policy and the law is also disturbing. Were I on the board this certainly have diminished my trust in her and might affect my willingness to engage with her. Do you really want a board where open hostility reigns and trust is absent. I don’t envy your challenge.
I would encourage you to not just let this blow over, but to take active and public steps to ensure that there are strong incentives in place to discourage this kind of behavior going forward. That will go a long way to restoring trust.
A quick note on another matter. A city attorney attends all council meetings and most work sessions in Highland (I imagine that most other cities do the same). This allows all council members to directly ask questions and receive an immediate response. I find this practice to be of great value. I would recommend the same for the school board. That would eliminate any perception that the administration is blocking certain board members from obtain legal opinions on matters pertinent to the board.
Highland City resident and city council member
Dear Mr. Petrilli:
It is near impossible to catch my breath between your compulsory admonishments on “embracing the core.” I continue to read them and I continue to reject them. Your reasoning is unsound and, frankly, I simply disagree with you. So, I have a question for you Mr. Petrilli.
What if I just don’t want my children to be taught under the Common Core State Standards or any aka there of, period?
I do not understand this game of tug-of-war over my children. In polite society, Mr. Petrilli, when a mother says “No, thank you” on behalf of her child, she means “No, thank you.” It is not code for “verbally abuse me until I lay my child at the altar of Thy-Will-of-Bill-Gates-Be-Done.”
My mind ponders at length the accomplishments of Bill Gates. He is an excellent example of the American dream. Bill Gates capitalized on American freedom to live as he pleased; to learn in a way that fit him; to create and build for himself and his family. The irony that Bill Gates is now using his amassed millions to usurp that same freedom from American families and to pigeon-hole the nation’s children into a standardized learning that suits him is grotesque and unjustifiable.
I had the privilege this past week to meet some of the national moms standing against this federal rush for our children. I looked long and hard at each of them because I was looking for something specific. What I found was a group of moms: funny, wise, sharp, thoughtful, sincere, caring, focused, genuine, and much more. I didn’t find what I was looking for though. I didn’t find any bullies.
The mothers in this fight are not the bullies – white, suburban or otherwise. What we are is the last line of defense, in some cases, the only line of defense for our children. I’m afraid our silence has been mistaken for complacency. Maybe we were quiet when we should have spoken. That’s on us. But we are speaking now. We tried polite. We tried firm. We tried loud. When we are not being ignored we are being labeled.
If the pushers could stop the diversion tactics for just five minutes they would be able to recognize the point of failure immediately. The “architects” did not start with the children in mind, whereas, mothers always begin with their children in mind. The writers begin with job placement – moms begin with giving life. The writers think assessment – moms think development. The writers think corporate boardroom – moms think sandbox. Life is an unfolding of an individual’s soul and spirit – it is not a race of the mindless clones to the factory time clock.
Here is my admonishment to you Mr. Petrilli – I love my children and Bill Gates will run out of money before I ever run out of love for my children.
Have you ever been told ‘we would NEVER adopt the national science standards’? I have; numerous times from many elected officials.
I started to push back against the Common Core reforms in early 2012. We warned this wasn’t simply about a set of standards. We warned there is more coming down the pipeline. The move to centralize and control education is moving at a rapid pace. We warned there were national science and social study standards waiting in the wings. We later warned there were national sex ed standards. We warned and warned and warned.
More often than not our pleas seem to fall on deaf ears….at least with decision makers.
In September of this year I was appointed to serve on the State science standards review committee.
The committee consists of 5 parents appointed by the Senate, 5 parents appointed by the House, and 7 subject experts appointed by the board chair. On paper that sounds like a measured and balanced approach.
The committee doesn’t have the feel of a parent committee, more like a who’s who in science committee with a couple of “regular” parents thrown in. Arguably, they are parents too, but that wasn’t the intent of the committee.
These committees can be manipulated to pick and choose who are the chosen few to have a real say in what is happening. The law already required parental input so I don’t feel the committee is necessary.
I know the state office was frustrated so many “anti-common core” parents were chosen and I’m concerned the USOE (UT State Office of Education) is manipulating the process.
First, they sent a list of parents they recommended as being chosen to the Senate and House. Isn’t that sweet?
Second, prior to the meeting I was sent a link to the current science standards with the assignment to thoroughly review the standards. I knew that the state office had already started working on new standards so why spend so much time looking at standards that are already on their way out.
Third, prior to the meeting we were also sent a pro-common core propaganda piece to help prepare for my meeting. That really bugged.
Fourth, upon arrival at the meeting we were assigned seats. I’ll never know for certain if our names were carefully arranged or not but it did seem to be that the “parents” were surrounded by “experts”. I just happened be to sitting by the lead writer of the national science standards.
Fifth, two members of the “writing” committee were also on the “review” committee. Does that even make sense?
Sixth, a good portion of the beginning of our meeting was devoted to explaining the purpose of the meeting and they made it clear the meeting was definitely NOT to talk about Common Core. Do they realize the entire reason the committee exists is BECAUSE of Common Core?
Seventh, we were strongly encouraged not to speak to each other outside of the meeting in smaller groups and to only communicate with the entire committee because this was a “collective” effort.
Eighth, we were repeatedly encouraged NOT to blog about the meeting because that would just be awkward at our next meeting…oops.
In all seriousness, I planned on following their request because everyone was really nice and I enjoyed the conversations I had with committee members but the more I thought about the meeting and how manipulated it was the more resolve I felt to let people know.
Ninth, we spent over an hour going over the current, intended to be thrown out, standards.
At 11 AM, one hour to the close of our meeting, we finally received the draft standards and broke up into committees to discuss. That does not leave enough time to look much at content. The staff was going to close comments at the end of our meeting but I cited the law and asked that we have more time to submit feedback.
******Sorry for the bitter tone, everyone was very nice BUT I did feel manipulated and that bothered me.******
Now on to the standards….
The proposed standards are…….dun, dun, dun….
IDENTICAL to the Next Generation Science Standards! (NGSS) Is anyone surprised? Yeah, I didn’t think so.
I went to the meeting expecting to see this.
I would give you proof with a side by side comparison but in order to be able to leave the meeting with the draft copies, I had to sign a non-disclosure statement that I wouldn’t make any digital copies. Lucky for you they’re publicly available online for your perusal and enjoyment.
Feel free to download a copy here: http://www.nextgenscience.org/next-generation-science-standards
Currently, UT is only changing our 6-8th grade standards so look at Middle School Standards.
The “writing” committee carefully reformatted each page and only put one standard on a page instead of multiple.
Each page contain the same few basic elements.
- The standard or Performance Expectation
- Clarification Statement
- Assessment Boundary
- Cross cutting Framework
Here is an example of one page from the NGSS:
Now let’s take a closer look:
The red arrow points to the standard’s identity and the green box outlines exactly what the standard or performance expectation is.
The green box is outlining the clarification statement.
The Assessment Boundaries are now outlined in green.
Below is a portion framework developed by the National Research Council.
The National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers have developed “Common Core State Standards” in mathematics and language arts, and 43 states and the District of Columbia have adopted these standards as of early 2011. The anticipation of a similar effort for science standards was a prime motivator for this NRC study and the resulting framework described in this report.
To maintain the momentum, the Carnegie Corporation commissioned the nonpartisan and nonprofit educational reform organization Achieve, Inc., to lead states in developing new science standards based on the NRC framework in this report. There is no prior commitment from multiple states to adopt such standards, so the process will be different from the Common Core process used for mathematics and language arts. But it is expected that Achieve will form partnerships with a number of states in undertaking this work and will offer multiple opportunities for public comment.
Sound familiar? Same players, same tune…
Underneath the colorful framework boxes is listed the Common Core standards that go along with each standard.
There were some changes made in the proposed draft and I’ll list them out generally here and will be able to get more specific at a later date.
- UT added a Root question to help arrange the standards by topic
- THE STANDARDS or PERFORMANCE EXPECTATIONS ARE IDENTICAL
- Clarification Statements- the majority are the same but the writing team did add to, delete (minimal), re-order and rephrase
- Assessment Boundaries – some changes but very little
- Framework – IDENTICAL
The important part is that the standards are 99.9 % the same with the exception of one word that was left out. I’ve been communicating with the State Board of Ed and it doesn’t appear that any board member knew the national standards were being used. Most seemed to think we were updating our old standards.
The Next Generation Science Standards were scored a C by the Fordham institute.
Fordham said that the current UT standards were clearly superior to the NGSS. In fact there are 14 states with clearly superior standards. If this were truly about raising achievement, those state standards would be our guide not sub-par standards with a very clear political bent.
Here’s the full review:
In fact, Utah’s current standards are rated higher than NGSS. Why are we intent on lowering our standards?
Citizens in Kansas are currently suing their state board of ed. From their website:
The Complaint alleges that the implementation of NGSS “will have the effect of causing Kansas public schools to establish and endorse a non-theistic religious worldview,” in violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.
Start researching now and be prepared to comment during the 90 day public comment period.
Public comment begins in December but there is no reason we can’t urge the state board to throw these out and start over. Elections are next week, find out where the candidates stand on the Next Generation Science Standards. Call, text, write and plead with the current state board to go back to the drawing board. Utah students deserve better.