Dr. Thompson slams USOE misrepresentations about SAGE

Dr. Gary ThompsonAt a recent legislative interim meeting, Jo Ellen Schaeffer from the USOE stated to legislators that SAGE testing was validated by UCLA. This was quite the revelation since for years we’ve been stating that SAGE was an invalid test, and the testing that was done in Florida on Utah’s test proved it (Link1, Link 2).

With this news that UCLA had apparently done a validation study, Jakell Sullivan reached out to Dr. Gary Thompson to get his take on things since legislators were being told with authority, that SAGE was a valid test. Dr. Thompson’s quick response points out numerous problems with the USOE’s statements. With permission I post his letter here.

Dear Ms. Sullivan

I have read the Utah State Board of Education’s memo in response to Representative Lowery Snow’s inquiry, on your behalf, about his concerns regarding the validity of the Utah SAGE test.  Here is a partial summary statement from the Board’s response informing Representative Snow, that the SAGE is indeed a valid test:

“The validity of Utah’s Student Assessments of Growth and Excellence (SAGE) has been confirmed through a number of independent sources. The most recent studies include: (1) The National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing, UCLA (CRESST), (2) Education Next, (3) Achieve.org, (4) Independent Verification of the Psychometric Validity for the Florida Standards Assessment. Each study substantiates both the high rigor of Utah’s standards and the validity and reliability of the assessments that measures those standards.”

As cited evidence of SAGE validity, the Board references “Education Next”, and “Achieve”. org”. Per the Board’s own memo, this cited evidence discusses  “high standards and state proficiency levels” when compared to the NAEP test.   This is not related to specific inquires regarding the validity of the Utah SAGE test.  As such, a response from me will not be forth coming.

I also will not respond to the Board’s reference to the State of Florida’s Validity study.   Several months ago, the Board used this same document to substantiate Utah’s SAGE test validity.   I sent a written response to the Board, and the general public, factually rebutting this dangerously irresponsible, and inaccurate claim.

As you and thousands of Utah parents are aware, I am still waiting for a response.   The letter sent to Board Vice Chairman, Dave Thomas, in response to his spurious claims, was referenced and published by Utahan’s Against Common Core’s, Chrystal Swasey. Here is the link: http://www.utahnsagainstcommoncore.com/sage-validity-part-2-dr-thompson-responds/

Thus, the only item left to rebut from the Utah State Board of Education memo, is its unexplainable reliance on a yet to be published AIR-SAGE validity study, produced by the federally funded, quasi governmental, UCLA campus-based research group, CRESST.

I am going to keep this short and sweet:

Here are five (5) questions that you, Representative Snow, the media, and voters in Utah may wish to ask Board of Education Chairman Dave Crandall during his “debate” appearance this Wednesday, June 22 at Summit Academy:

1. Why did the State Board rely on the research group “CRESST” as the primary source of proof of SAGE validity, without letting parents and lawmakers know that CRESST is “funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Educational Research and Improvement (OERI)”?  (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Center_for_Research_on_Evaluation,_Standards,_and_Student_Testing)

2.  Utah paid $40,000,000 to AIR, Inc. (American Institute of Research) to design the SAGE test.  Were you aware that the research group CRESST, which produced the “validity study”, is supported financially by, and lists AIR as “Partners” on its own website? (http://cresst.org/partners/)   Does the Board leadership consider this to be an “independent”, and unbiased relationship?

3.  Since 2012, were the Board and the State Office of Education aware that the current Director of CRESST, Li Cai, received multiple millions of dollars of personal research grants from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, U.S. Department of Education, and (you can’t make this stuff up) Utah’s SAGE test designer, AIR? (http://cresst.org/wp-content/uploads/LiAbridge.pdf )  How can a Director of a research organization produce an objective and unbiased validity study on the very group that has given him substantial amounts of money for independent research?

4. Why did the State Board of Education fail to inform parents that their children were taking a yet to be validated test for the past three years?  Is not such omission a complete and blatant violation of trust?

5. Are you aware that Board placed hundreds’ of thousands of Utah children at risk of harm, and exploitation, at the hands of a behavioral research corporation (AIR), by allowing them to experiment on children without the informed, written consent of their parents?  Are you aware that this unethical practice is also against Utah law? (https://le.utah.gov/xcode/Title53A/Chapter13/53A-13-S302.html) “Activities prohibited without prior written consent”

When the Utah State Board of Education and State Office of Education produce an independent validity study, I would be delighted to devote professional time to review it at your request.   In the meantime, the current memo submitted to Representative Snow in support of SAGE “validity” is clearly a deliberate attempt to deceive an esteemed member of the Utah Interim Education Committee, and only serves to highlight the unethical, unconstitutional, incestuous relationship between the State of Utah, and the U.S. Federal Government.   

Both the Utah State Board of Education and the Utah State Office of Education have a long, well documented history of providing lawmakers and parents in Utah with responses to inquiries laced with “lies of omission.”   This deceptive practice places public school children in Utah at high risk for continued psychometric experimentation, and profit motivated exploitation via the hands of SAGE test designer, AIR, Inc.   I have no desire to debate current Board Chairman Dave Crandall in a public setting, until this serious matter of continued experimentation and exploitation of our children is answered in a clear, ethical, fact based manner.

In summary, given the clear and present danger this poses to 650,000 vulnerable Utah children, it is my professional opinion that you consider asking Representative Snow to seek an independent inquiry regarding this matter via Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes.  It is my strong, evidence based, professional opinion that Utah’s education leaders at the Board of Education and State Office of Education, are more committed to adhering to the educational political “flavors of the day”, as opposed to providing Utah’s children with objective, science based solutions to serious education problems in our State.

Please let me know if I can be of more assistance to you in the future.  Feel free to distribute this response to the general public as you deem to be appropriate under the circumstances.

Best regards;

Gary Thompson, Psy.D.

District 10 Candidate For Utah State Board of Education



Utah is Losing Teachers. Clintons, Gates and Feds are Supplying Them

Lately we’re hearing a lot about America’s teachers leaving their beloved profession.  Utah’s State School Board is answering this problem, not by restoring local control over education, but by doubling-down on federal initiatives that dismantle local control over curriculum.

Here’s what every parent and local school board member needs to know about the teacher shortage:

Believe it or not, the teacher shortage was a pre-planned effect of the Common Core testing initiatives. Yep. As we’ve learned from the history of nations, governments create the problem and then step in with the solution (or noose).

And, now that Utah is losing teachers, guess who is already there to help us train more teachers?  Yep. The good old Feds and their Global partners. This racket is part of federal STEM initiatives.

Utah’s State School Board will begin giving licenses to teachers who receive training from “Master Teachers.” But, ask yourself this, “Who will be training the Master Teachers and who will the Master Teachers be?”

In July 2012, the Obama administration called for funding for its STEM Master Teacher Corp. The  goal is to train (and give federal stipends to) 10,000 Master Teachers in STEM fields—with the end-goal being to train 100,000 STEM teachers in 10 years.

An early announcement for this STEM Master teacher workforce was at the Clinton Global Initiative’s 2011 meeting in Chicago. Here’s what 100Kin10 (a group that answered—after helping create—the Obama administration’s call to build the STEM Master Teacher pipeline) said about itself in July 2016,

“100Kin10 was launched five years ago at the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) America Meeting in Chicago in June 2011, with 28 initial partners pledging to go above-and-beyond their existing strategies to help secure 100,000 excellent STEM teachers for America’s classrooms.”

Then, 100Kin10 announced that President Obama was a full partner:

“President Obama Announces 100Kin10 Has Commitments to the Full 100,000 New STEM Teacher Goal”

Then, they said, “100Kin10 joined with President Obama today, on National Teacher Appreciation Day, to announce that it has secured the commitments to train 100,000 new, excellent science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) teachers by 2021, achieving a major milestone in the ambitious goal laid out by the President five years ago. As of today’s announcement, the 100Kin10 network of 280+ national partners has collectively pledged more than $90 million to support the development and ongoing support of 100,000 new STEM teachers; and 30,000 new teachers have already been trained. The President highlighted today’s achievement as a feature of his legacy on education.”

Now, don’t forget that STEM teaching and learning means something different to conservatives than it means to progressives, which is why local control of education is so critical. Remember that President Obama thinks that climate change is the world’s worst threat.

And, speaking to UNESCO in 2010, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said,

“The United States cannot, acting by itself, dramatically reduce poverty and disease or develop sustainable sources of energy. America alone cannot combat terrorism or curb climate change. To succeed, we must collaborate with other countries.

Those new partnerships require American students to develop better critical thinking abilities, cross-cultural understanding, and facility in multiple languages. They also will require U.S. students to strengthen their skills in science, technology, engineering, and math—the STEM fields that anchor much of our innovation in the global economy.

These new partnerships must also inspire students to take a bigger and deeper view of their civic obligations—not only to their countries of origin but to the betterment of the global community. A just and socially responsible society must also be anchored in civic engagement for the public good.”

You’ll want to read the full speech because Arne talks about how Governors jumped onto the Fed’s Common Core bandwagon and that federal education reforms were about global/systemic change, not academic standards.

Bill Gates, the largest funder of Common Core AND the largest funder of the 100Kin10 initiative is in favor of combatting climate change by controlling population.

And, just for a little bit of history, this entire racket was started back in 2009 with the Obama administration’s Educate to Innovate initiative. The White House announced their goals:

  1. Build a CEO-led coalition to leverage the unique capacities of the private sector (what CEO’s do we see leading the STEM initiatives in Utah? Know any of them personally? Share this article with them.)
  2. Prepare 100,000 new and effective STEM teachers over the next decade
  3. Showcase and bolster federal investment in STEM
  4. Broaden participation to inspire a more diverse STEM talent pool

As reported by Science Magazine,
“The president’s plan would be to start with 2500 teachers—50 at 50 sites across the country—and add locations over the next 4 years until there were 10,000 teachers in the corps. The teachers, who would serve for 5 years, would be selected by the local districts and deployed as needed.”

Now, that the Feds have surpassed their first objective, their onto training 100,000 progressive teachers—and Utah’s State School Board is right on board with the federal agenda.

Utah’s State School Board elections could not be more critical than this year. Please. Vote for these candidates (which includes Jonathan Johnson for Governor, #HireJJ) so that we can restore local control over what our teachers learn and teach, and what our children learn about what creates freedom. Hint: It isn’t big government.

2016 Candidates for Election

VoteThere are a number of very important races up for grabs in this primary. I would strongly urge you to vote for the following individuals who have committed to positions of parental rights, protecting the state from federal power, and shifting more control to local schools and districts over their education systems.

Governor: Jonathan Johnson

State School Board candidate list

District 4 – Brent Strate (Appears to be the best of the available candidates)
District 7 Frank Strickland
District 8 David Sharette
District 10 Dr. Gary Thompson
District 11 Lisa Cummins
District 12 Alisa Ellis
District 13 No primary since only 2 candidates
District 15 Michelle Klaas Boulter

For other races I encourage you to examine our candidate survey here: http://bit.ly/1Ucajzh

To see state legislator rankings and how incumbents have voted in the past, please click here: http://bit.ly/21AHQBR

For Alpine School District where I live, I would encourage votes for the following people:

Seat 4: Rachel Thacker
Seat 6: Miriam Ellis
Seat 7: Kirby Glad

If you live in other districts and know who the anti-Common Core, pro-local control candidates are, post them in the comments below.

I would also strongly urge that you not vote for any candidate that accepted money for their campaign from the Count My Vote PAC, or Education First.

I completely agree with this statement by Rep. Brian Greene.

“CMV continues to throw around the term “Party Insiders” without ever identifying a single such person. The fact is there are no party insiders. The entire ranks of the party structure is turned over every two years. The sad truth is that the only “insiders” involved in this process are those trying to pin that label on others. Mike Leavitt/ LaVar Webb, and that sort, sit in their ivory towers like “union bosses” under the illusion that their status and wealth entitle them to control elections and policy. They had no problem with the party’s caucus/convention process when they controlled it, but with the rise of the grass-roots conservative movement since 2008, their influence has been minimized and their instinctive response has been to change the law to regain the advantage that they believe their status and wealth entitles them to. If the CMV model is successful, Utah policy and government will be changed forever.”

If you want the money out of politics, the caucus/convention system is the very best system. If you eliminate it and go with Count My Vote, you get big donors paying for signatures and candidates running very broad public campaigns instead of focusing on a group of people that WE elect locally to go spend hours vetting the candidates. What percentage of voters who sit at home do hours of research on candidates? An extraordinarily small number.

Utah Teacher Exposes Anti-Family Online Curriculum

Utah Teacher Shares Insights about State Approved Online Curriculum that Goes Against Family Values

reposted from www.ReturnToParentalRights.com

A Utah teacher deserves a BIG thank you from parents for taking time to document some of her concerns with the online curriculum used in her high school. The curriculum was approved by the State of Utah. Please take the time to read and share this excellent blog with your family, friends, school board members and legislators.

I would like to preface her blog with this:

In May 2014, conservative columnist George Will asserted that Common Core represented the “thin edge of an enormous wedge” and that “sooner or later you inevitably have a national curriculum.”

What George Will may not have known at the time was that the Obama administration was already using several levers to get states into online curriculum that essentially nationalizes curriculum. One such lever is the #GoOpen Initiative. Utah is a partner (see here and here) in the first consortium of states in the Federal Initiative that are collaborating on online curriculum content. Just as states were incentivized by Waivers and Race to the Top to rubber stamp Common Core standards and assessments, they are being incentivized by the #GoOpen Initiative to rubber stamp curriculum, and to sanction it based on its ability to increase children’s test scores on Common Core-aligned daily, online assessments in learning platforms.

The #GoOpen Initiative is part of a larger global and federal initiative to advance the use of Open Educational Resources (OER). In fact, the US Department of Education appointed a new advisor to help school districts transition to Open Educational Resources. The more states that adopt open-license, no-cost, online curriculum, the more teachers’ curriculum choices can be tracked, and steered, by the Federal Online Learning Registry. The Registry operates like a curriculum filter and ratings system. The Utah Education Network (UEN)—also called the Utah Education Telehealth Network (UETN)— houses online curriculum for Utah schools and is named as the entity implementing Utah’s Master Technology Plan. They are partnered with the Federal Online Learning Registry.

The above realities make it likely that few parents and teachers will know just how anti-family their children’s/students’ curriculum have gotten. We need more teachers to investigate the online curriculum in their schools (as opposed to just using teacher data dashboards to assign curriculum that they don’t see) and to be willing to share what they uncover for the sake of helping parents protect their children’s hearts and minds.

Thank you, Suzan Barnes! You are a hero to us and our children!

  • • • • • • • • • • •

Online Learning: A Wise Choice for Utah Schools?

Originally posted by Suzan Barnes on June 7,  2016 at:

Today online learning is encouraged more and more in our country. Proponents of this method say that computers help students learn better because 1) kids love screens and 2) learning is personalized allowing students to move at their own pace. In this essay, I will show that both of these presumed advantages can turn out to be liabilities. Other liabilities include lack of teacher involvement, lack of real-life experiences, lack of balance in content (specific to Edgenuity online curriculum), and lack of knowledge of content by teachers and parents.

Too Much Screen Time

Yes, kids love screens, and many parents complain that limiting screen-time at home is difficult. Regrettably, extensive use of screens in the classroom only increases screen-time. According to an article by Victoria L. Dunckley, M.D. in Psychology Today, multiple studies have shown that too much screen time causes atrophy in the brain’s gray matter where “planning, prioritizing, organizing, and impulse control” originate. Other areas affected are the striatum where socially unacceptable impulses are suppressed, the insula which provides the capacity for empathy and compassion, and the white matter which enables “communication within the brain and from the brain to the body and vice versa.” Dr. Dunckley concludes,

“In short, excessive screen-time appears to impair brain structure and function. Much of the damage occurs in the brain’s frontal lobe, which undergoes massive changes from puberty until the mid-twenties. Frontal lobe development, in turn, largely determines success in every area of life—from sense of well-being to academic or career success to relationship skills. Use this research to strengthen your own . . . position on screen management, and to convince others to do the same.”

As shown above, children may be eager to learn in front of a screen, but the damage that occurs is likely to have a negative overall effect on their ability to learn.

Online Learning Is Not Personalized

Proponents of online learning say it is personalized to meet the individual needs of each student. In actuality, during an online lecture, the student and the virtual teacher are unable to communicate which essentially precludes personalization and makes online learning better suited to disseminating a single, subjective view of the world.

Lack of Teacher Involvement

When a teacher delivers a lecture, both the students and the teacher are meaningfully engaged in the lesson content. The students must digest the information and demonstrate their understanding of the subject in order to complete subsequent assignments.

By contrast, the teacher’s involvement in online lessons occurs mainly through use of the dashboard. The dashboard alerts a teacher that an action, such as unlocking a quiz, is needed in order for a student to move forward. The teacher can review a student’s scores on assignments leading up to a quiz, or unlock the quiz without looking at the scores. In either case, familiarity with the lesson material or thoughtful review of the students’ work is not required.

One problem that arises from the lack of thoughtful review is that students can copy material from the lesson content and paste it into the response box to get a score of 100% since the computer merely looks for matching or related words.

Every day I see students who scored 70% to 100% on assignments, score 20% to 50% on the quiz that covers the same material. It is likely that the copy-and-paste feature combined with the lack of teacher/student engagement is responsible for this. For these students, the goal is not to learn but to finish as quickly as possible, and teachers who spend much of their time as dashboard monitors have little time to invest in any individual student’s educational experience.

Lack of Real-Life Experiences

Pediatricians recommend zero screen time for children under 2 years of age. An important reason for this is that looking at a ball on a screen is not the same as looking at, touching, and playing with a real ball. Similarly, students learning from pictures and videos are merely gaining static information which is easily forgotten. Much more effective teaching occurs when students interact with real people who respond to them in real-time and with real interest, tossing ideas back and forth to explore a subject. Should teachers wish to facilitate a group discussion of online curriculum content, they would encounter the following difficulties as a result of different stages of their students’ progression: 1) students who are ahead have already moved on and may feel they are wasting their time with repeated information, and 2) students who are behind may have insufficient background to understand the material.

Lack of Balance in Curriculum Content (Specific to Edgenuity)

As I work with students, I encounter essay assignments that prompt me to look into a particular lesson’s content. For example, an essay topic such as, “Do you think that the Founding Fathers were justified in rebelling against the British government?” makes me wonder what in the lesson might prompt a student to answer in the negative. An essay topic such as, “Write an argumentative editorial that argues for or against young people’s ability to initiate positive change in their communities,” makes me wonder if the curriculum’s definition of “positive change” is the same as my own.

To help readers determine whether or not their values align with the Edgenuity curriculum, I have included the following examples of common themes. My experience is mostly in Language Arts, so it is this subject from which these examples are taken.


Language Arts 9 semester 2 contains a unit called “Fighting for Equality.” Rather than encouraging students to become “color blind,” the curriculum creates division by presenting readings where whites are aggressive or oppressive toward other races, thus encouraging all other races to view themselves as victims.


In Language Arts 11 semester 2, repeated references are made to Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique and Susan Glaspell’s “Trifles.” These works lead young women toward dissatisfaction with the role of wife and mother and disrespect for those who fulfill that role. The following themes are drilled into the minds of our young people through repetitious quiz questions.

From “Trifles” –

  • Women face abuses and injustices in a male-dominated society as symbolized by a bird with a broken neck
  • Women are “confined” by the duties of wife and mother
  • Women often feel pressured to conform to society’s expectations

From The Feminine Mystique

  • Women frequently go unheard in a male-dominated society
  • Women can feel suffocated and trapped by society’s expectations
  • Women who are “stuck” at home often have feelings of dissatisfaction, desperation, and hopelessness.

After students read all the excerpts about how women are suffocated by men, an excerpt from Soldier’s Home by Ernest Hemingway ends with the idea that girls are nice to look at, but not worth making the effort to court or marry. This excerpt encourages the boys to objectify women.

While awareness that some women have experienced oppression has some value, and knowledge of how our culture has evolved is an important part of learning about our nation’s history, the Edgenuity curriculum presents no point of view outside of that cited above. No discussion occurs about the benefits that society in general, and children in particular, receive from women who choose to raise their own offspring and provide well-managed homes for their families. Rather than empowering women to use their talents in whatever way they prefer, young women are encouraged to feel like vengeful victims who must continue “the fight” to overcome the abuses perpetrated by men.


Humans are portrayed as enemies of the earth. One article, “Save the Redwoods,” written by John Muir, founder of the Sierra Club,* compared cutting down a sequoia tree to make wood products with passing General George Washington “through the hands of a French cook [to make] good food” (Language Arts 9 semester 1). The Middle School Reading Course semester 1 contains an entire unit called “Environment: Extreme Weather” which presents global warming as a fact illustrating its consequences through articles such as “Global Warming in Siberia,” “Global Warming and Superbugs,” and “Weather of Tomorrow.”.

Video gaming

Middle School Reading semester 1 also includes multiple units on “The World of Gaming” in which students are assigned to read a “Persuasive Essay against ESRB Labeling Restrictions.” The essay assignment is, “What game do you like to play and why?” While helping a student with a quiz, I came upon a reading informing students that gaming helps develop quicker reflexes and suggesting that they could use that as an argument the next time their parents told them they were spending too much time playing video games. Targeting parents who struggle to limit their children’s game time and suggesting that parents do not know best pits young people against their parents rather than encouraging respect and obedience.

A negative world view

Edgenuity is replete with stories and excerpts depicting conflict and oppression. Some examples from Language Arts 10 semester 1 follow:

  • “Diary 24” from “The Freedom Writers Diary” by Erin Gruwell (A homeless black girl starts 10th grade at a school where racial tensions are high)
  • “Two Kinds” by Amy Tan (Mother/daughter conflict)
  • “Identifying Conflict” (A young girl’s experience in a Nazi camp)
  • “An Interview with Marielle Tsukamoto: A First-Hand Account of Japanese Internment”
  • “Night” by Elie Wiesel (A boy’s experience in a Nazi camp)

As stated earlier, knowledge of historical events is a valuable part of an education.  However, when students move from one depressing excerpt to another without class discussions which might offer solutions, parallels, and/or opposing viewpoints they can come away with a negative view of the world in which they live. Without class discussions, lessons generally proceed as follows:

  • Students watch a lecture preparing them for a reading
  • Students read the text
  • Students watch another lecture guiding their interpretation of the readings
  • Students complete at least one assignment pertaining to the material
  • Students are quizzed to make sure that their interpretation is “correct.”
  • The process is repeated

Lack of Knowledge of Content by Teachers and Parents

Ideally, teachers would listen to all the lectures and review the entire curriculum frame by frame and gain first-hand knowledge of the material presented. However, keeping up with dashboard alerts creates a fast-paced situation, and since they trusts the curriculum to cover all Common Core requirements, and this step is not required for students to progress and finish the courses, gaining more than incidental knowledge of the curriculum is generally not a priority. If teachers happen to discover a concept with which they do not agree, they can present an opposing viewpoint in a lecture or during a group discussion. But as mentioned above, group teaching presents its own set of difficulties when students are all in different stages of progression and possibly even studying different subjects altogether. Sharing opposing views with each student separately is too time-consuming and could be construed as pushing the teacher’s person values on an individual, so it is not a viable option.

As for parents, if no textbook ever comes home, they have limited access to the ideas being presented to their children. A parent must be aware of an objectionable teaching before they can counter it.

Many factors make it difficult for online learning to deliver a quality education. Quality learning is facilitated by real people exploring ideas and exchanging views through real-life activities and personal interactions. Through online learning, students are lead to accept the point of view put forward by the makers of the program, and as I have shown, much of the content of Edgenuity presents a divisive agenda promoting racism, feminism, and environmentalism along with a generally negative world view.


* Denigration of human life should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with the Sierra Club. David Brower, a founder, suggested the following: “Childbearing should be a punishable crime against society, unless the parents hold a government license. All potential parents should be required to use contraceptive chemicals, the government issuing antidotes to citizens chosen for childbearing.” He further stated, “The goal now is a socialist, redistributionist society, which is nature’s proper steward and society’s only hope.”

Tell your legislators NO to CBE

Now that the governor and state board seem to be interested in replacing Common Core with Utah standards (and that’s not the solution we’re looking for, but local control of standards, assessments, and curriculum at the district/school level), and SAGE tests are staggering from multiple body blows, what’s the “next thing” reformers want to impose on our children? Competency-based education (CBE).

Just say NO.

What is CBE? Let me point you to a fine resource that will help you understand the issues. The mastery of the parts does not equal the mastery of the whole. CBE is just the rename of “Outcome-based education” that was shot down decades ago, and now CBE must be shot down again. Just because we have digital tools now doesn’t mean it’s any more right for students today than it was back then .

Start here:


To the proponents of CBE, I would suggest that instead of personalized learning, we need personal learning. That’s not saying we need a greater teacher to student ratio, but we need to allow children to turn into self-learning adults. One major purpose of education should be to create life-long learners. I haven’t been in school for 25 years yet I continue to study and learn things because I enjoy it. Students need the same ability (and passion) of being interested in a subject without being told what to learn, when to learn it, and what’s on a test.

As students age through the system they need to be given more freedom of time to pursue their own interests. This can be a class period or more. Self-study should be required. Let them choose their own subject and present to the teacher a plan for their own mastery of the content at the level they want to master it. When they’ve done that let them present a plan for the next topic they want to dive into, whether it’s shallow or deep. When students pursue what they are curious about, they will learn it faster and better and the teacher can be there to guide the student in their own true journey. Completion of a unit would be writing a paper or doing a presentation for the class reflecting their mastery of that topic. That’s lifelong learning! Students could even review each others’ plans and challenge each other to perform.

Teachers in this class role could help students to obtain their own personal mastery, not some checklist of predefined mastery units or state standards. It is a grave disservice we do to students to tell them they have graduated when all they have done is learned to master what they have been told to do. If learning is truly self-learning, we need to reintroduce true self-learning to the school system.

Please read the above article and then contact your legislators and tell them you do not want Competency-Based Education in Utah. You want personal learning and local control.

Freedom and Education presentation

Here is my presentation I gave Friday night (June 3, 2016). In it I cover a range of topics including the beasts in Revelation (oh yeah, critics have at it).  I also discuss freedom and religious freedom and a little known tidbit about Jefferson’s “wall of separation” letter to the Danbury Baptists. I cover educational options and share a link to this page on the Agency Based Education website which has three excellent presentations on homeschooling. If you have never considered homeschooling, watch this video and then those and you may just be convinced to try it.

Abortion Test Question

A student attending Stansbury High School was taking his biology exam in an online format and got this very personal question about handling an abortion. Thankfully he had his cell phone to take a picture of the test question he received. Click to enlarge it.

The student said this question had come up earlier in the year when taking a different test. This is a very disturbing question that appears to violate Utah law asking about potential religious and sexual beliefs. This is not a SAGE test, but some other provider openly seeking behavioral data on students.

Abortion Test Question


Governor Herbert calls on State Board to End CC and SAGE

Jonathan Johnson This morning Jonathan Johnson called on Utah to end SAGE testing. Tonight Governor Herbert called on the state board to get Utah out of Common Core standards and SAGE testing. Dang I love election years!Governor Herbert

With Jonathan Johnson defeating Governor Herbert at the GOP convention 55%-45%, largely influenced by Common Core issues, the Governor no doubt had an awakening. I have never doubted the Governor’s intentions to provide a quality education to Utah children, but I still find this move politically opportunistic to try and salvage his chances of being re-elected. Of course, the Governor can make this call knowing he has no authority to actually carry it out. That belongs to the state board…

Having had several discussions with Jonathan Johnson, I know he is fully committed to principles of local control that I’m not sure the governor is committed to at the same level based on his letter. His letter brings out some positives for sure, but I believe it’s time LEA’s (Local Education Agency) had much greater control over their financing, standards, assessments, data collection and privacy, and the state shrunk back in it’s role interfering with local education (and of course the feds are cut out of the picture completely).

In essence, here is what the Governor said:

-Common Core had a poor implementation (Oak: this is the go-to excuse for all failure programs like Investigations math)

-Naturally, he said there is misinformation on the subject, but added for what I think is the first time, that there are legitimate concerns.

-He asks the state board to change out the standards and keep these three principles in mind:
–Maintain high standards in all subject areas
–Keep the feds out of education decisions
–Preserve local control of curriculum, testing, data collection, and instructional practices.

-Make the process public (not something that happened the first time)

-There are shortcomings to the one-size-fits-all approach. We need standards that are flexible to allow a wide variety of curricular decisions by individual school districts.

-Eliminate the SAGE mandate for high school (and evaluate the effectiveness of it in other grade levels)

-“I have eleven grandchildren in Utah public schools. I have seen firsthand the frustration they and their parents have had over an assignment they did not understand and that teachers struggled to teach.”

End of summary.

No doubt this will be nationwide news that Utah’s Governor who has been one of the biggest proponents of Common Core, now wants out. That’s helpful for the entire movement across the country and for that, I’m grateful.

To download a copy of Governor Herbert’s letter, click here.

To see the near immediate response of the state board (ie. at least some of the knew this was happening and prepared this response), click here.

Dr. Duke Pesta: From Farce to Fiction

Dr. Duke Pesta has given hundreds of presentations around the country on Common Core. Below is a link to one of his very best. It shows the origin of Common Core and those involved with it talking about exactly how it came about and how we won’t know for a decade if it works. To the contrary, we are already seeing evidence that it does not work as math and reading scores are declining nationwide.


Dr. Pesta’s video will not allow for embedding so you will have to click this link to watch it.


Michigan just took the best action possible. It dumped Common Core and has adopted the pre-Common Core Massachusetts standards which Fordham said are superior to Common Core.

Time to Admit the Obvious: Common Core Has Failed Spectacularly

The lie that Phil Daro (one of the original drafters of the math standards) declared the creation of Common Core was for social justice to level the playing field, but in reality it is only being played out in that our best and brightest are being held back.  Unfortunately the learning gap between the rich and poor has actually widened under Common Core (as predicted). Here’s a report from Stanford on 200 million student’s scores and what they show. Make no mistake, this is 100% on Common Core even though this article doesn’t mention it. Common Core has been around for six years now with full implementation for at least four.

Local education inequities across U.S. revealed in new Stanford data set

It is unfortunate that when I tried to introduce the elementary math parent review committee to the incredible success California was having with low-socioeconomic students and minorities, increasing their proficiency in algebra one by a 6x factor over 10 years, I was shut down by Diana Suddreth at the USOE. They had no intention of letting Utah switch off Common Core. California’s success didn’t meet the agenda of doing this nationwide experiment on our children.


The Anonymous Attack Site “Get Cored”

You know Common Core is in trouble when it’s defenders put up a website to defend it and then make it anonymous, refuse to identify themselves, and their first post contains not a single positive thing about Common Core but an ad hominem attack on me personally. Hilarious. :)

Evidently I’m some tremendous threat to the establishment since the governor lost at convention to Jonathan Johnson and they know Common Core played a big role in it.

This is the site: https://getcored.wordpress.com/

Check out the banner to their website.


For several months now I have felt an odd transformation happening in my soul. Now I finally know what it is. I have finally completed my ascendancy to become myth and legend. Mortals beware… ;)

The authors of the site start off by mocking a presentation I made in Draper a couple years ago called “Pulling Back the Wizard’s Curtain.” Thank you for helping distribute my message of truth to a wider audience. I fully encourage everyone to watch it to see the culture war we are in.

The anonymous author(s) go on to say:

Oak is the leader of a rag-tag group of radical extremists called the “Utahns Against Common Core,” a group hell-bent on fighting the Common Core and its devastating influence on helping children learn math and reading.”

Typical attack. Exaggerate and make stuff up to demonize me.

Here’s another straw man argument which isn’t even a shred true. Make up that I called basic math requirements “evil” and show a few basic requirements like multiply and add numbers, and pretend you’ve discredited me. Pathetic. Particularly after how I fought to get the state to raise its math standards which it finally did in 2007.

“Needless to say I was confused by the sentiments in Oak’s video regarding the “evil” behind these basic math requirements. Wasn’t this addition and subtraction we were talking about? How did we get from an educational standard to a conspiracy to indoctrinate our children with dystopian values?”

In fact, the page is so over-the-top, I just have to repost the last half here. I would ask for permission, but the author(s) have chosen to put up their own wizard’s curtain and make the site anonymous. The majestic defenders of Common Core have arrived! (But they’re too embarrassed to identify themselves)  Now lets look at their facts against the anti-Common Core movement…

“In the corresponding blog post to this video, Oak gives us the answer to that exact question.


That’s right folks. It’s not about the standards. It’s about one man’s quest to expose the ancient, unholy agenda of the federal government to destroy God and the family, one multiplication problem at a time.

You may laugh. I know I did. But as I read the comments on his videos and on his website, it became less and less amusing. These people weren’t laughing with me. These people were embracing Oak-soaking up his anti-government rhetoric and lauding him as a crusader. Whole masses of terrified parents were flocking to worship at the altar of Oak and receive his rambling instructions. His message of fear had slowly permeated through an unwitting audience, and without resistance had diffused into the hive consciousness. A following had been born.

This wasn’t the first time I had encountered these individuals, however. I had seen them spew their paranoid gospel on social media, and even spoken to some in person. Each shared common traits such as an inability to reason, and a complete disregard for fact. Each interaction I had with them usually ended in a similar fashion: an angry reaction to the realization that the truth they clung so dearly to was fiction, and that their paradigm was one not fixed in reality. But overall, this seemed like a small and innocuous sector of the general population, and I was just as pleased to discontinue the conversation as they were.

But recently, it was my paradigm that was shattered. Last Saturday at the Republican State Convention, for the first time, I witnessed the true nature and scale of the Cult of Oak. Over 2000 of his disciples filed into the crowded Salt Palace to fulfill their destiny. No longer exiled to fringes, these zealots had covertly infiltrated one of the most crucial political gatherings in the State of Utah and they would not be satisfied until a complete victory had been obtained.

This was no longer the rag-tag band of internet trolls I had largely ignored for so long. These people now had power. And although Oak Norton had seemingly brought his followers to the promised land, they now had found a Savior.


Promising to “get Utah out of the Common CoreJonathon Johnson, this election’s “Libertarian” gubernatorial challenger, pounded his fists on the podium to the deafening adulation of the crowd. Worshipers stood and cheered as he swore to eliminate the evils of higher math and reading standards. As the votes were counted, and the dust settled, it became clear that the madness had reached a tipping point. Fear had won, and what started as one man’s misguided and nonsensical journey to have his way had quickly become a revolution.

And that is why we have decided to fight back. To “pull back the wizard’s curtain” if you will. For too long, this sore has been left to fester in the heart of Utah, and has become infectious; endangering the future of Utah’s schools. To be clear, the education of our children is a non partisan venture; one whose outcomes should not be decided by an elite few who hate public education as much as they do the thought of vaccinating their kids. It’s time to get fringe politics out of our education. It’s time to let math and reading be just that. It’s time to stand up for the Utah Core.”

State Senator Todd Weiler posted this next comment on a Facebook group for GOP state delegates along with a link to the site, making it sound all official and mysterious in an effort to get people to read it. Dang, I hope they do. “Taking on Common Core by seeking to destroy Oak Norton.” Wow, that’s going to overwhelm the public with facts. Coincidentally, Todd shared this anonymous website as breaking news similar to the way he published a document to Facebook from an anonymous source attacking Jonathan Johnson. Some might just call that a pattern of behavior rather than a coincidence.

“Have you seen this? Somebody is taking on the common core conspiracy …” – Todd Weiler

Ha ha ha. Next time try putting bullets in the gun Todd & Co. If that’s the level of attack coming our way, I just have one thing to say.

“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” – Mahatma Gandhi

Someone posted a comment on the article asking who the author was since they are hiding behind their anonymity. The response reveals a lot about the arrogance of these semi-anonymous attackers.


Wow, and they call *me* off kilter…

Now here’s where it gets interesting. Mary Shumway, wife of former state superintendent Larry Shumway, confronted me at the UACC booth at the GOP convention last week. I address her in the article previous to this one on the blog. In it I show three screenshots of things she posted to a Facebook group. This is the third. Read the bottom half of this post carefully.

Mary Shumway's Post

So Mary is going to work with Tami Pyfer, the governor’s education advisor very closely on some things she can do that others can’t because she is retired.

Who were among the first few followers on the site’s Twitter account? Syd Dickson, acting Superintendent of the State of Utah. Diana Suddreth, director of teaching and learning at USOE. Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh, president of the UEA. Laney Benedict, Utah PTA. Kara Sherman, Utah and National PTA. Several at USOE, and others who equally despise me. A few names on the list surprised me though as I had thought they were above such things.

(Updated 5/4/16: I originally put Syd as one of the very first tweets but it was Diana, which to me suggests likely insider participation. Syd was one of the first five to follow the account on Twitter though and emailed me asking for a retraction that she tweeted this out and stated “I didn’t retweet the article as I wasn’t comfortable with it.” I asked her if she was really uncomfortable with it, why would she follow the account on Twitter when that was the only post on the site? Her reply back was: “I unfollowed GetCored. If by following you feel I agreed with the approach, I am sending the wrong message. I was truly just keeping my eyes on what they (?) have to say. Just wanted you to know. ” Tami Pyfer has also now denied any involvement. Diana Suddreth has also now denied any involvement with the site. Here’s Diana’s tweet.)


Also, Alyson Williams posted this on Facebook which may implicate Ricky Scott at the USOE:

“Here’s what we know about this anonymous blog. The person set up a matching Twitter account just weeks prior. The first real person to tweet about this blog was Utah State Office of education employee Ricky Scott (science coordinator.) There was also another fake Twitter account set up that day “notGovernorHerbert” that also retweeted A post from Ricky Scott as one of its first real person interactions. Pretty unusual coincidence. Most of the first people to follow the “getcored” Twitter feed (exception Senator Todd Weiler) were USOE employees and people in closely related jobs/roles. For example, the first district teacher to follow the feed was a science coordinator (assumed liaison to Ricky) in Alpine. I worked briefly for a social media analytics startup. The good news for privacy is that Twitter protects individual privacy, even that of bullies using fake identities. The bad news for those wishing to remain truly anonymous is that there’s kind of a web built by the connections as a message spreads and it looks like the USOE, or an employee, is at the center of this one. If they’re not creating this slander, they’re actively promoting it…”

So this “anonymous” involvement may go from the Governor’s cabinet, possibly to the State Superintendent, to the USOE, to the UEA, to the PTA… By golly, that looks like a genuine conspiracy!

For the record, I stand by everything I have ever published. Certainly, over 11 years of time and perhaps a thousand posts online, you should be able to find something I’ve posted that you can contradict and try to prove wrong. Some of the things I posted many years ago I might not even believe anymore because I’m always learning and adjusting to new evidence. I feel blessed having a mind capable of change. For example, at one time I wrote that I favored national standards. Then I saw what that picture looked like as Common Core and the agenda behind it was rolled out and I did a 180 on that point. Perhaps next time the opposition will actually attack an issue instead of a person. But then again, that’s hard when the facts are on our side.

Every single thing I post online I use my name on because I don’t ever want to feel like I’m free to hide behind a wall of anonymity and say something inappropriate to another person. There is so much rudeness in online forums, particularly the newspaper websites. Fake names promote bullying and aggression. I think the fact that their site hides behind a “wizard’s curtain,” while criticizing a talk I gave of that title, speaks volumes about the character of the people behind the website. They must feel pretty threatened from the number of parents who have woken up to the agenda playing out before us.

If the authors of the site actually want to engage in debate they should list some facts and have the discussion. Unlike their website, I allow opposing voices to have their say on this site so we can discuss things. And they do post! And we have discussions! So far these anonymous defenders of Common Core have blocked numerous posts that they are embarrassed about. I would be too if I’d published an article like that and claimed I was defending something by attacking someone. I’d probably lose the respect of everyone that follows this blog. The things I post online are factual, sourced, and not mocking of others. If you want to criticize me, there’s certainly plenty of content they can choose from. My most recent post on Governor Herbert’s involvement with Common Core lists several things they could start with.

Since I know how much these people hate when I involve something religious in my posts, I guess I’ll just close by quoting an LDS Apostle most of them are probably familiar with..

Don’t Wear Masks. Act in Accordance with Your Beliefs – by Quentin L. Cook

“It is common today to hide one’s identity when writing hateful, vitriolic, bigoted communications anonymously online.

Any use of the Internet to bully, destroy a reputation, or place a person in a bad light is reprehensible. What we are seeing in society is that when people wear the mask of anonymity, they are more likely to engage in this kind of conduct, which is so destructive of civil discourse. It also violates the basic principles the Savior taught.”


Amen Elder Cook. Amen.

OK, I didn’t know if I would post this or not at first, but I think in light of what’s going on, I will. Consider this bonus material…

The Sunday before the state GOP convention, Jonathan Johnson’s campaign emailed out an endorsement I gave of the Johnson campaign which included several bullet points from the Herbert article on this website. It was totally fact based with links to source documents.

A couple hours later, still on Sunday, Brian Maxwell, a former campaign director for Governor Herbert, sent out this email to state delegates.

Dear Mr. Johnson,

Please stop emailing delegates like myself on Sunday. Additionally, spreading such nonsense on the Sabbath is doubly frustrating. I felt compelled to take some time from my family to respond to this email. That’s something I would rather not do again.

In the future, try using a more reliable source than Oak Norton. Mr. Norton has been on a multi-year batlle to prove that BYU has been promoting a “socialist crusade” in the Alpine School District.


Candidates for Governor really ought to have more sense than providing a platform for such nonsense. Look through Mr. Orton’s blog here in you don’t believe me.


Jonathan, you need to be better than that. I think I speak for the other members of my precinct when I say that we don’t want our governor wearing a tin-foil hat, or giving an enlarged voice for those who do find them fashionable. As delegates, we deserve an better. An apology is in order.

For those interested in the Utah Core curriculum and the historical background, the State School Board has addressed this extensively. See that information here.


Brian Maxwell

State Delegate

Brian received quite a number of emails calling him a hypocrite, self-righteous, etc…, pointing out that nobody forced him to check his email on the Sabbath, or take time away from his family, and how ironic it was that he would send his email to delegates on the Sabbath as well, disrupting their day. :)

I waited a few days and then sent out this reply to delegates.

Dear Delegates,

Sunday you saw what happens when a Herbert supporter can’t defend the governor against the facts and instead tries to discredit the messenger. I encourage you all to read this article and decide for yourself whether it has any merit and see why Brian Maxwell and the Herbert campaign are so upset. The article links to official government documents and shares the statements of government and other officials which don’t quite paint the picture of local control of education that the Governor has been espousing. It’s hard to discredit source documents. :)


You’ve also probably received a letter or two from the Governor on how he “will not stop fighting against the federal government trying to intervene in Utah classrooms.” At least he admits it’s happening now. Unfortunately, the above article shows his record on this doesn’t match his campaign slogans. Here’s a rebuttal to his full letter by Alyson Williams, point by point, if you’re interested.


I also strongly encourage you all to read the links Brian Maxwell sent out about my efforts (with others) to get BYU’s Education Department and Alpine School District to drop a 25 year association with John Goodlad. Thank you Brian for pointing this out to everyone. Everyone should be aware of what’s happening in our schools. You should take great interest in what your children’s teachers teach them.

What Brian didn’t send out was this link which shows WHY we were battling John Goodlad. BYU was lending their good name to this man’s education network, even hosting his conference one year and sending speakers to his conference on a regular basis. What is the Goodlad agenda? He was pushing to get teachers to use school rooms to create activism toward social justice and the gay agenda. You can see a screenshot of his website advertising this on this post which Brian inadvertently failed to send out (because that might have subverted his intention to dismiss me).


FYI, as a result of our efforts, BYU’s Education Department DID DROP the association. Mission accomplished.

If you have never seen what social justice curriculum looks like, check out this elementary reading and writing curriculum video I posted two years ago with Jared Carman. It’s eye opening what some children are being exposed to.



Oak Norton

Protecting Our Children