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.
NEW VENUE AND TIME: Please come to a protest on Thursday at 11:00 – 12:30 at Royal Wood Office Plaza, 230 West 200 South. The parking lot is shared with the US post office. Invite everyone you can, especially those with children with disabilities.
In a nutshell: Secretary Arne Duncan violated federal law seeking to punish state school disability programs, got caught big time, and a federal Dept. of Education official is here in Utah on a “routine” visit. Time for a protest.
What you are about to read should result in congressional hearings and Arne Duncan probably being fired as the US Secretary of Education.
Federal law sets forth certain things that can be done under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). No one may circumvent those laws. Only Congress can change laws, but because of the current Executive Branch’s agenda to bring states under federal control, grant-based regulations and mandates have increasingly been created by Secretary Duncan, in violation of the Constitution.
On June 24, 2014, Secretary Duncan circumvented congress and issued mandates for changes in the way state special education programs are evaluated. (http://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/new-accountability-framework-raises-bar-state-special-education-programs)
“To improve the educational outcomes of America’s 6.5 million children and youth with disabilities, the U.S. Department of Education today announced a major shift in the way it oversees the effectiveness of states’ special education programs.”
He then went on to explain what changes he is mandating.
Eight U.S. senators prepared a letter explaining the violations of law involved in Duncan’s action and asked the Secretary a number of very pointed questions. Evidently, Senator Hatch from Utah walked that letter into a meeting, interrupting it, to deliver it to Secretary Duncan. The senators’ letter is embedded at the bottom of this article.
In essence, the mandate changes the way the school funding game is played by suddenly announcing that historical NAEP test score data will be used retroactively to evaluate federal funding on schools that have children with disabilities. As the senators’ letter points out this is a very clear violation of the law.
Duncan calls this new framework, “Results-Driven Accountability.” It’s simply unconstitutional and illegal. The press release states:
“Last year, when the Department considered only compliance data in making annual determinations, 41 states and territories met requirements. This year, however, when the Department includes data on how students are actually performing, only 18 states and territories meet requirements.”
Why are they so eager to tell states they aren’t meeting requirements? So they can enact more requirements. It’s the way things work for those in power. Tell schools they aren’t performing and then punish them with additional requirements.
Utah happens to be coming up short and is on the list of states that “need assistance.” The USDOE continues, “If a state needs assistance for two years in a row, IDEA requires the Department to take actions such as requiring the state to obtain technical assistance or identifying the state as a high-risk grant recipient.”
So Utah is at risk of losing federal funds due to the feds moving the goal post and mandating, against the rules of the game, that teams retroactively enact the new rules. Suddenly the score that was 14-0, is 0-0.
Now I’m no fan of federal funding in any respect and I’d love to see it abolished, but until we are able to accomplish that, this is an egregious violation of the law and should result in Duncan and maybe others being short-timers on the hill for their actions.
NAEP was supposed to be for a common set of data between the states and was mandated to never be used for high stakes testing determination.
So what kind of “technical assistance” does the USDOE have in mind?
“As part of the move to RDA, OSERS [Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services] will fund a new $50 million technical assistance center – the Center on Systemic Improvement – to help states leverage the $11.5 billion in federal special education funds which they currently receive to improve outcomes for students with disabilities. In addition, OSERS will be working with each state to support them in developing comprehensive plans designed to improve results for children with disabilities.”
Because so many states were suddenly deemed to be below threshold (without knowing that’s how they would be evaluated), we’re going to see a new federal “assistance” center because obviously the states aren’t capable of educating children with disabilities. We “need” that federal help… (Oh, and Common Core isn’t being pushed by the feds either, of course.)
Interestingly, Gregory Corr, the Director of Monitoring and State Improvement Planning at OSEP (Office of Special Education Programs), is coming to Utah *right now* to do some type of investigation. This is beyond normal. Directors don’t go to states on “routine” visits. I understand he will be at the State Office of Education on Thursday.
Please come to the protest on Thursday at 11:00 – 12:30 at Royal Wood Office Plaza, 230 West 200 South. The parking lot is shared with the US post office. Help tell the the feds to stop violating the law, stop violating Utah’s sovereignty, and stop messing with children with disabilities. It’s OUR education system. Lets give Greg a “warm” welcome. Bring your signs.
If you want to know what *real* school board members do, check this out. There was discussion at the August 12th school board meeting in Alpine regarding AIR, the company Utah contracted with to provide the SAGE exam. You can listen to the audio at this link.
Click at the bottom on Additional media, and go to 52 minutes on the Board Meeting audio.
That discussion prompted Dr. Judy Park at the Utah State Office of Education to write a letter to Superintendent Henshaw in ASD. This letter was sent to Dr. Park by three of the board members in ASD (and it’s shameful that the other 4 don’t understand their role as public watchdogs enough to have signed on as well). Read this and then covet our board members… :)
September 18, 2014
Dr. Judy Park
Utah State Office of Education
Dear Dr. Park,
Thank you for taking the time to address some of the issues with AIR and SAGE testing. We especially appreciate your citations of the contract. In the interest of openness and transparency, we have a point of clarification, as well as some follow-up questions.
To begin, a point of clarification. Your letter is directed to Superintendent Henshaw who communicated some of our concerns about SAGE and AIR to you. In your letter, you indicate that “False, undocumented and baseless allegations need to cease.” We wish to clarify that the concerns expressed by Dr. Henshaw were not coming from him, and, as such, your directive would not be to him but to those of us on the board and our constituents who are raising questions, based on our reading of the AIR contract with USOE. Because Dr. Henshaw reports to the Alpine School Board and not the other way around, any directive for Dr. Henshaw to rein in these ‘allegations’ from board members or constituents would be inappropriate. We can appreciate that you are troubled by this, but we would recommend that more information and more discussion would be a preferable way of resolving concerns, as opposed to suggesting that concerned representatives and their constituents simply remain silent.
So, in that spirit of openness, we have the following clarifications and follow-up questions.
We begin by addressing the sections of the AIR contract cited in your letter of August 14. It was very much appreciated because these are the same sections of the contract that we have studied. We were hopeful that there would be additional insight. Unfortunately, we did not find any assurance in the pages listed.
I-96 – I-98: This section nicely addresses the physical, network, and software security for the server and test items. However, the only reference to AIR employees, their ability to access or use any data is left to “Utah’s public records laws, FERPA, and other federal laws.” FERPA, as many know, has been modified by the US Dept of Education to allow for the sharing of data without parental knowledge or consent as long as it can be justified as an ‘educational program’. Additionally, FERPA only contains penalties for those entities receiving federal funds. Since Utah is paying directly for SAGE testing, FERPA is a meaningless law in this regard. Additionally, Utah’s public records laws appear to only address the openness of public records, but are insufficient when it comes to privacy or use of data, including that of a minor. If there are robust privacy laws in Utah’s public records laws, we would appreciate additional citations. Please cite the other federal laws that protect the privacy of our students.
I-61: Addresses the technical protocols for the data transfer, as well as encryption of passwords. Again, this doesn’t address those who are given access by AIR to the data for whatever purpose.
I-72 – I-73: Addresses the security of those contractors who will be manually scoring during the pilot testing. This addresses a particular third-party in a particular role, but not AIR as an entity or its employees, other than this particular instance.
I-85 – I-86: Addresses the issues of users and roles for the database and USOE updates. This limits the appropriate access to those of us in Utah, based on whether we are teachers, principals, board members, USOE, etc. Again, this does not address anything about AIR as an entity or its employees.
While all these security precautions are necessary, and we are grateful they are included, they do nothing to address the particular issues that were raised at the August 12, 2014 Alpine School Board Meeting. Some of our concerns are as follows:
1) Prior to the Addendum from March 2014 (for which we are grateful) there was no prohibition on sharing data with a third-party. As indicated, the changes to FERPA would allow AIR to legally share data with a third-party as long as that sharing was for ‘an educational program’ without parental knowledge or consent. As such, the addendum now allows for that sharing only with the USOE’s consent. We are still concerned that parents are not asked to give consent and may not have knowledge of their student’s data being shared.
2) AIR itself is a research firm dedicated to conducting and applying the best behavioral and social science research and evaluation. As such, they are involved with data collection and evaluation. In the contract and addendum cited, there is nothing that prohibits how AIR or its subsidiary organizations may use, query, analyze or access any or all student data from the SAGE tests in Utah. They would have access to many data sets from many entities. They also would have multiple on-going research projects. There is no prohibition on what inquiries, research or analysis can be done on the data from SAGE testing. As long as AIR does not profit from the data or share with a third-party without the USOE’s consent, the data is managed by AIR and available for access. What are the methods in place to prevent AIR from accessing the data for additional research or analysis? AIR does not need to share the data with a third-party to violate the privacy of a student or a set of students. However, since they control and manage the database, there is nothing that would prevent this access.
3) There are no prohibitions in the contract regarding behavioral data. While we realize Mr. Cohen has said the contract does not call for gathering or evaluating behavioral data, and that AIR is not inclined to do so, there are, again, no prohibitions or penalties associated with gathering or evaluating behavioral data. State law allows for the use of behavioral data in the year-end testing. So, there are no legal prohibitions on the use or collection of behavioral data. Since behavioral research is the primary mission of AIR, as indicated by its mission statement, it is a concern for parents. If AIR has no desire to collect behavioral data as part of the SAGE testing, it should state so explicitly in a legally-binding manner.
4) Many parents have, legally, opted out of SAGE testing for their students. As such, why is AIR receiving any information on these students? Parents feel it is a grave violation of their trust by USOE that any data the USOE has received from the schools can be input into the SAGE database, not to mention the State Longitudinal Database System (SLDS). There must, at a minimum, be a way for parents to opt out of all sharing of their student’s data with AIR and the SLDS. At what point, if any, will student data be purged from the AIR database? What is the method for demonstrating the data has been properly purged?
Additionally, we appreciate the response of Mr. Cohen to our concerns. Based on his response, we have the following questions.
1) Please list the “express purposes” for which the release, sharing or sale of data is not prohibited, per contract.
2) What third parties are AIR “explicitly permitted by the State of Utah” to provide data to?
3) What research has AIR been requested and directed by the Utah State Office of Education to conduct?
4) What entity (or entities) has AIR been authorized by the State of Utah to release data to?
5) Please list the source of the contract that states that AIR is prohibited from releasing data to the federal government.
6) What entity (or entities) have been designated by the USOE to receive data from AIR?
7) The memo does not address companies owned or operated by AIR, which would not be considered third-parties. Please state, per contract, where AIR does not share data within related party entities.
Finally, we have the following questions related to the validity and reliability of the SAGE testing. We understand that this information would not be protected by copyright, and therefore, could be provided to us, as elected officials.
1. Normative Sample Details (who took the test)
2. Coefficient Alpha Reliability
3. Content description Validity
4. Differential Item Function Analysis
5. Criterion Prediction Validity
6. Construct Identification Validity
7. Other types of validity scales/constructs that are applicable only to CAT test designs
We appreciate the opportunity to discuss this more in the future. As those who are responsible to the parents of this district, we feel it is imperative that our concerns are addressed. And, when all is said and done, it is most important that parents have the opportunity to protect whatever student information they feel is necessary. Just because parents decide to educate their children in our public school system does not mean that we, as a state government, are entitled to whatever information about their children we feel in necessary. Parents are still, by state law, primarily responsible for the education and the upbringing of their children. As such, their wishes and their need to protect information on their students is paramount. As members of the Alpine School Board, we must represent the different views and concerns of all the parents in our area. For those who have no concerns, then you may proceed as usual. For those who do have concerns, it is incumbent on us to raise these questions and to obtain the most accurate information possible.
Thank you for your time, and we look forward to more information in the future.
Brian Halladay, ASD4
Wendy Hart, ASD2
Paula Hill, ASD1
A couple Saturday’s ago, the Utah county delegates voted to enact a couple resolutions against Common Core, and in favor of partisan school board elections, and leave a meeting on time instead of listening to all the debate and running over time. I was asked by Kirby Glad to make remarks in favor of the resolution for partisan school board elections, while Dave Thomas, a member of the state school board was to present against the resolution. You can obtain a copy of the resolutions by clicking here and scrolling to the end:
Since the delegates didn’t get to hear both sides of the story and I would have preferred they got the opportunity, I invited Dave Thomas to send me his remarks against the resolution and told him I would publish them here. He didn’t respond, but Kim Burningham, another State School Board member wrote a blog post sharing his reasoning against partisan school board elections.
I will now post my speech, a link and quote from Kim’s, and my brief rebuttal of Kim’s reasoning.
My fellow delegates,
Is there a single delegate in this room who would put party politics above your own children or grandchildren?
I don’t believe so. The purpose of the delegate system is to elect people willing to spend the time to find principled people who are NOT beholden to anyone, but share our values.
We have before us a resolution which gets to the heart of the caucus system. Either we believe in the ability of delegates (us, our friends, our neighbors) to ask tough questions and make good decisions, or we do not accept the premise of representational government and might as well complete a transition to an oligarchy of hopefully benevolent rulers.
When the Framers of the constitution guaranteed a republican form of government to every state, the core issue for them was pushing control to the local level. Let the local wards, Jefferson said, elect representatives amongst themselves. Why? Because the general populace will never take the time to investigate candidates to find good and wise people to hold office.
What is the role of a school board member? Is it to defend the school district from public scrutiny or to be a watchdog for taxpayers and parents? You and I know it’s the latter but that is not the reality. Board members who are not elected by the people are not likely to feel accountable to them. At the state level, board members are subjected to a Governor appointed vetting committee who eliminate all candidates that don’t match their views such as their litmus test for supporting Common Core. At the local level we have board members who are supported by their party, the education establishment, and they are rubber stamps to the administrations that got them elected.
We know the current system doesn’t work. We keep seeing the same people appointed to the ballot who actually favor federal dollars in our schools which come with federal strings attached to them. The alternative of non-partisan elections just guarantees that the NEA/UEA candidates have strong support through their network while true conservatives do not have anyone to get the word out – a key purpose of a political party. They condemn conservatives for wanting a greater say in education through partisan elections, but have no problem maintaining political power through their Union.
Partisan elections allow a small representative segment of society elected as delegates to dig in, ask the tough questions, and make a representative choice for the greater whole of a political party and notify voters that the candidate they’ve chosen is the one they feel is the best for the job and shares core values and beliefs with members of that political party. It doesn’t make that candidate beholden to party politics, it’s a matter of having candidates closely vetted before getting to the ballot and making sure their core values match yours.
The largest budget item in Utah is education. 15 people are selected to run a $4 billion budget. We can’t elect the people we encourage to run because the governor’s appointed board eliminates most candidates before they are seen publicly, and everyone who opposes Common Core.
In Alpine school district, each of 7 non-partisan elected board members is responsible for $84 million. By comparison, each of our 3 county commissioners is responsible for $24 million.
In 2009, the state office of education submitted a signed Memorandum of Understanding with the federal department of education, to begin the process of participating in Common Core and contains an entire unconstitutional paragraph they had to acknowledge titled “Federal Role” in education.
During the last legislative session, two senior officials at the State Office of Education sent out an email to educators all across the state against Representative Brian Greene’s partisan election bill stating, “This bill essentially gives more power to parents over curriculum standards, and would prohibit us from adopting any national standards.” Don’t tell me the state office favors local control.
A vote for this resolution is a vote for trusting the caucus system. A vote for this resolution is a vote for common sense and trusting our neighbors.
A vote against it is a vote for maintaining a concentration of political power in special interest groups who can sway the general public with sound-bite campaigns instead of meaningful dialog. I urge you to support this resolution.
Kim Burningham’s article:
Kim argues that state school board members should be chosen in nonpartisan elections. His actual argument is based in the Utah Constitution. He said:
“For a similar reason, I find alternative # 2 very troubling. The State Constitution specifically prohibits it. Article X, Section 8 of the Utah Constitution: ‘No religious or partisan test or qualification shall be required as a condition of employment, admission, or attendance in the state’s education systems.'”
It is stunning to me that someone so experienced as Kim Burningham would take the state constitution so far afield of what it actually means. Kim quoted Article X, Section 8 of the Utah Constitution as: “No religious or partisan test or qualification shall be required as a condition of employment, admission,or attendance in the state’s education systems.” This is merely saying we can’t put a litmus test on a particular office such as “only Mormons or members of the Church of England can hold that position.” It’s why the Framers put similar language into the U.S. Constitution, which reads: “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.” Partisan elections ARE LEGAL and used in a majority of political races in Utah in order to closely vet candidates for office.
Two stories I just received. What is it going to take for you to do more than sign a petition?
“My daughter, _______ who lives in ______, is on the Community Counsel for _____ High. A few days ago in one of their meetings, the floor was opened for those on the council to express any concerns they have. She brought up Common Core and some of the others indicated their concerns also, but a teacher that she knows personally, who was in attendance, said, “We are not allowed to mention Common Core. It is now called Desk Standards–but it is really Common Core.”
Just thought that I’d pass that on.” -SS
“So I have to say that I’m pretty upset. I picked up my son from school today and asked how his day was. He told me he got earbuds today; when I asked him what for he said he was working on a tablet and needed them. He went on to tell me he was working on a program (don’t know what it’s called but he logged into Pearson.net) and it was a match game. So when he made a match, the tone was a binaural beat. If he didn’t get the match correctly it “screamed at him” another binaural beat that he described… ‘it went through my body and made me shake, I was unable to type because it was like an electricity shock.’ I told the school that I did not want him using any portable device provided by the school. I was not informed about this, of course. Has anyone had their children mention something like this? I asked him if there are any of his classmates who do not participate but they all do. The teacher instructed the class that they cannot sit out on this exercise. – LP
When an untested math standards and curriculum are forced on children nationwide and their emotional, psychological, and intellectual abilities are not considered, you have a one-size-fits-all recipe for disaster and it boils down to institutional child abuse. What are you doing to help good candidates get elected this November?
Watch this second grader’s “love” of math after being in Common Core.
Jon Fidler wrote a great article here which contains this first bit from Leslie Castle. Please read the whole article.
After a parent expressed concern about an indoctrinating assignment to state school board member Leslie Castle, Leslie responded:
“It is my opinion that public school is a place for children to be exposed to, not indoctrinated by, many ideas and opinions that are found in the American landscape. I can’t imagine students leaving the public school system having only been exposed to the opinions and experiences that are found around their own dinner table. That would be true indoctrination and a travesty of true education.
To hide from your child the fact that many American’s do not share your view of gun rights would be indoctrination and social engineering, in my opinion. To explain to your child that all Americans have the right to have different opinions from their parents’ and from their own is a first step in the valuable lessons of social justice and self-actualization.”
Leslie, you would make the socialist/humanist education “expert” John Goodlad proud. Goodlad wrote, “A century has passed since the prescient educational historian Ellwood Cubberley wrote the epigraph with which this writing began: “Each year the child is coming to belong more to the State and less and less to the parent.”
“My only disagreement with his observation pertains to the implication of our owning children. We parents do not own our children; we just rent them for a while. Given the extent to which what he was troubled about has expanded, however, his reference to state ownership may well be appropriate.”
(2010, Washington Post, Goodlad on school reform: Are we ignoring lessons of last 50 years?)
Thank you Leslie for yet another reason we desperately need partisan elections…
This week I received two comments on the Common Core math standards which are worth reading and understanding. This first is from Ze’ev Wurman, a former member of California’s Academic Content Standards Committee, and a U.S. Dept. of Education official under George W. Bush. Someone asked Ze’ev about Euclidean geometry in Common Core’s standards. This is his response:
“Common Core did not throw out Euclidean Geometry. Common Core replaced the way the fundamental theorems of Euclidean Geometry (relating to triangle congruence such as ASA, SAS, SSS) are supposed to be proven in the classroom to an experimental method with a track record of failure. Consequently, proving Euclidean Geometry theorems is bound to be no more than arm waiving under Common Core, and the beautiful edifice of logical air-tight deductive geometrical reasoning is bound to be lost. To add insult to injury, Common Core only lightly touches on traditional body of theorems relating to triangles and circles, making it’s geometry a shallow course.
In Common Core’s defense one could argue that many Geometry courses already today give a short shrift to logical proofs and to exploring geometrical relationships of triangles and circles. This is true for some courses, yet not for all of them. What Common Core does is that it codifies such shallow treatment of geometry to be the normative one, forcing even serious courses to be dumbed down to mediocre and shallow levels.”
This next comment is from Dr. Wayne Bishop, mathematician at California State University. Long time opponent of fuzzy math, he helped bring down the awful standards California adopted in the 90’s that devastated their state, and brought about their excellent 1999-2000 standards and framework which were among the best in the nation prior to their downgrading them for Common Core. This letter was in response to one of the questions on Governor Herbert’s recent survey. I don’t know which question this was a response to. Emphasis mine.
Although the words claim otherwise, the effect is highly pedagogical in support of a philosophy called “constructivism” that has a long history of repeated failure. I was very active in replacing California’s model of such in the 1990s with superb standards, the California Mathematics Content Standards with approved curricula and consistent assessments. Regrettably, California made the same mistake as Utah to “buy into” the misguided Common Core State Standards mirrored in the Utah ones. The words that the CCSS-M are tied to the best international standards are simply meaningless. FAR better would be to abandon the Utah form of the CCSS-M and replace the document with the far clearer and appropriate former California Mathematics Content Standards.
One of the problems is a deliberate, but disguised, avoidance of competence with arithmetic in the early grades. They are filled with nice-sounding words that are essentially content-free; pedagogy trumps specified/testable competency that is so critically important through ordinary fractions, percent, and ratio and proportion word problems. The lack of confirmation of arithmetic competence is dismissed by professional math education “experts” by ubiquitous, and inappropriate, access to calculators. By contrast, Japanese classrooms look very different:
“Students sit in rows and are expected to listen quietly. Teachers rely on direct instruction rather than investigative mathematics, but although they ask few questions, the questions they do ask are useful in guiding student understanding.”
The biggest surprise was a shocking lack of technology in Japanese classrooms. “Not a single student pulled out a calculator during class,” Drickey said. There were no overhead projectors, televisions, computers or laptops.
“But lack of reliance on technology may lead to higher scores for Japanese students,” she said. “The ability to think mathematically, without the aid of an outside source, could help students process mathematical problems more accurately and efficiently.”
As an experienced professor of mathematics who has taught our course designed to prepare prospective high school geometry teachers (Math 430 Modern Geometry), I am especially appalled the geometry standards that, again, echo the CCSS-M. To actually prove congruence (much less similarity) using transformations instead of the traditional sophomore Euclidean geometry approach, is something that no high school student is capable of doing without exceptional leadership, in part, because it is in none of the available books. Instead of making the subject harder (as an honest treatment would), the effect is the removal of proof from the high school mathematics curriculum. The very words in the CCSS-M and Utah Standards pass traditional sophomore proof on to college geometry which denies high school students the greatest gift of the ancient Greeks to modern human thought, semi-formal deductive logic. Sin has many forms but one of its more insidious ones is failing to educate students to the best of our ability under the misguided notion that if it’s especially challenging for some students, water it down so that everybody can “succeed”.
Professor of Mathematics
California State University, LA
Click here to listen to Dr. Jim Milgram warn how Common Core will devastate America’s technical prowess.
I received this email from someone last week which I think many of you will be interested in. This is not Common Core related, although we all know about the awful perversion of AP U.S. History that has taken place under the College Board which is aligning everything to Common Core. Here is what she sent me. Take action below.
My daughter goes to Cottonwood High School. She had her first AP US History and her teacher told them that the history they learned in elementary was all a lie. They read from “History is a Weapon” by Howard Zinn where he tells them that the US is founded on genocide of the Native Americans. My daughter also tells me that the other students in the class believe the teacher.
Please do the following:
1) Email your local and/or state school board member and ask them to make sure Howard Zinn’s version of U.S. history isn’t being portrayed in your school district classrooms. I would include what this mother’s letter contains.
2) Carbon copy your legislators and the governor on your email.
If you don’t have your legislators email addresses, get them here (http://le.utah.gov/GIS/findDistrict.jsp)
Governor Herbert’s contact form is here. Copy/paste your email to him:
Don’t miss this fascinating presentation from Charlotte Iserbyt, author of The Deliberate Dumbing Down of America.
Check out this homework assignment a parent emailed me today which her child got 10/40 on. Most of the problems were correct but he didn’t show his work. 2 of the 10 points were for putting his name on his paper. Clearly a violation of principle for this teacher since his name is memorized and he didn’t draw a picture of himself…
What do you even do with teachers so full of this kind of nonsense. It reminds me of when my daughter was in 4th grade and had to draw 120 circles and separate 30 at a time to do long division. That didn’t last and I explained to the teacher that she understood the concept and wouldn’t be doing that nonsense anymore. Remember, schools are a SECONDARY SUPPORT to YOU in YOUR primary responsibility to educate YOUR children.
“So I had to pass this along. My son attends Vista Heights Middle School and is in the 7th grade. Attached is my son’s homework he brought back home today. He didn’t get points for the VAST majority of his homework because he didn’t show his work. He didn’t show on paper how he knew his multiplication facts and could add and subtract small numbers in his head. We are now punishing our 7th graders for knowing their multiplication facts and knowing basic math!! I went through his paper and there were a few he did genuinely get wrong. But the bulk he got right and didn’t get ANY points because he didn’t show his work. When I asked my son what happened he said his teacher said, “memorizing your multiplication is NOT a method“. He is to re-do his assignment and draw pictures showing how he arrived at the answer. No need to memorize your multiplication facts in elementary school, they’re just going to have you draw pictures in middle school! No need to learn how to add 2 and 2, you’re going to have to draw a number line or sticks in middle school to add it up!! Of all the ridiculous things!!”
Reprinted with permission from Stanley Kurtz: http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/386202/how-college-board-politicized-us-history-stanley-kurtz
The College Board, the private company that produces the SAT test and the various Advanced Placement (AP) exams, has kicked off a national controversy by issuing a new and unprecedentedly detailed “Framework” for its AP U.S. History exam. This Framework will effectively force American high schools to teach U.S. history from a leftist perspective. The College Board disclaims political intent, insisting that the new Framework provides a “balanced” guide that merely helps to streamline the AP U.S. History course while enhancing teacher flexibility. Not only the Framework itself, but the history of its development suggests that a balanced presentation of the American story was not the College Board’s goal.
The origins of the new AP U.S. History framework are closely tied to a movement of left-leaning historians that aims to “internationalize” the teaching of American history. The goal is to “end American history as we have known it” by substituting a more “transnational” narrative for the traditional account.
This movement’s goals are clearly political, and include the promotion of an American foreign policy that eschews the unilateral use of force. The movement to “internationalize” the U.S. History curriculum also seeks to produce a generation of Americans more amendable to working through the United Nations and various left-leaning “non-governmental organizations” (NGOs) on issues like the environment and nuclear proliferation. A willingness to use foreign law to interpret the U.S. Constitution is likewise encouraged.
The College Board formed a close alliance with this movement to internationalize the teaching of American history just prior to initiating its redesign of the AP U.S. History exam. Key figures in that alliance are now in charge of the AP U.S. History redesign process, including the committee charged with writing the new AP U.S. History exam. The new AP U.S. History Framework clearly shows the imprint of the movement to de-nationalize American history. Before I trace the rise of this movement and its ties to the College Board, let’s have a closer look at its goals.
NYU historian Thomas Bender is the leading spokesman for the movement to internationalize the U.S. History curriculum at every educational level. The fullest and clearest statement of Bender’s views can be found in his 2006 book, A Nation Among Nations: America’s Place in World History. Bender is a thoroughgoing critic of American exceptionalism, the notion that America is freer and more democratic than any other nation, and for that reason, a model, vindicator, and at times the chief defender of ordered liberty and self-government in the world.
In opposition to this, Bender wants to subordinate American identity to a cosmopolitan, “transnational” sensibility. Bender urges us to see each nation, our own included, as but “a province among the provinces that make up the world.” Whereas the old U.S. history forged a shared national identity by emphasizing America’s distinctiveness, Bender hopes to encourage cosmopolitanism by “internationalizing” the American story.
Bender laments that history as taught in our schools has bred an “acceptance of the nation as the dominant form of human solidarity.” The growing focus on gender, race, and ethnicity is welcome, says Bender, but does little to transform an underlying historical narrative built around the nation. Even the rise of world history in the schools has backfired, Bender maintains, by making it appear as though American history and world history are somehow different topics.
Bender understands that his transnational twist on American history has profound political implications. He complains that while working on his book (during George W. Bush’s presidency), “a discourse of exceptionalism and policies based on it became omnipresent in American public life.” Bender promises that his transnational framing of American history “will give little comfort” to the proponents of policies based on American exceptionalism.
He worries, however, that his globalizing approach to American history might be used to defend precisely the sort of “hegemonic” American foreign-policy he abhors. To prevent this, Bender urges that American history be taught, not only from an American point of view, but from the perspective of those who are subject to American power. “Americans have always found it difficult to imagine themselves as an enemy, as a problem for other people,” says Bender. By showing us ourselves through our enemies’ eyes, Bender hopes to promote humbler and more collaborative forms of American foreign-policy.
Bender complains about George W. Bush era foreign policy, not only in respect to war, but also in the matters of, “environment, trade, nuclear, and other policies.” Clearly, he hopes that his anti-exceptionalist vision of American-history will encourage a different approach to foreign affairs. Bender also openly hopes that students exposed to a less “national” version of American history will sympathize with Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s willingness to use foreign law to interpret the U.S. Constitution, rather than with Justice Antonin Scalia’s rejection of foreign law as an arbiter of American jurisprudence.
In 2006, A Nation Among Nations provoked a sharp exchange between Bender and Brooklyn College professor of history, Robert David Johnson in the journal Historically Speaking. Going on the attack, Johnson calls Bender’s “transnational” version of American history, “little more than an attempt to ensure that students think a certain way about contemporary events.” Johnson warns Bender that “establishing as an outcome for high school history classes the judicial philosophy of Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer . . . will undermine support for public education among citizens who disagree with the preferred ideology.”
Bender parries Johnson’s charges of politicization with a non-denial denial. I offer no “rules for specific actions in the world,” says Bender, nor is my book about “any specific foreign policy.” But Bender doesn’t have to write a policy brief. To achieve his preferred policy results, he merely needs to inculcate a cosmopolitan sensibility and an abiding hostility to American exceptionalism. Bender also denies Johnson’s claim that he wants to “merge” high school U.S. history with World history, yet Bender clearly wants to integrate them in a way that subordinates the American national story to the transnational, globalist perspective.
To understand the deep entanglement of the College Board in Bender’s political and intellectual project, we need to return to 2000, when a group of 78 historians under the auspices of the Organization of American Historians (OAH) issued the flagship document of the movement to “internationalize” American history, “The La Pietra Report.” Bender authored that report, and it prefigures all the themes he develops in his later writings.
The report takes its name from the Italian villa where the meetings took place, from 1997 to 2000. The La Pietra Report makes much of the fact that those meetings were held outside the United States, and that nearly a third of the scholars working to forge a new U.S. History curriculum were non-Americans. One such scholar, in fact, was Cuban.
Francesca Lopez Civeira, of the University of Havana, participated in absentia, sending a paper on American power as “an object of fear” in Cuban historiography. That fit squarely into a central theme of the La Pietra Report, which urges that American students be exposed to evidence of the “controversial power and presence” of the United States beyond our borders, to the point where “one’s native land seems foreign.”
In common with Bender’s later work, an interim report on the 1998 La Pietra conference warns that a newly internationalized American history could inadvertently create a new “…American global city on a hill, the new model for a global culture and economy. There is a danger of a triumphalism that this history could fall into, thus becoming the ideological justification for the latest phase of capitalism.” Again, the La Pietra scholars try to prevent an internationalized history from justifying America’s global economic and military reach by focusing on how America’s alleged victims and enemies feel about the use of our power.
A conclave of historians with a left-wing foreign policy agenda, a third of them from foreign countries, seems an odd inspiration for the ostensibly non-partisan College Board’s redesign of the AP U.S. History Exam. Yet that is exactly what the La Pietra conference and its report became.
In 2002, two years after the appearance of the La Pietra Report, Rethinking American History in a Global Age, a collection of representative papers from the La Pietra conference was published, with Bender as its editor. At the same moment, the Organization of American Historians, which had sponsored the La Pietra Report, moved to strengthen its collaborative relationship with the College Board’s AP U.S. History program. This led to the formation in 2003 of a Joint OAH/AP Advisory Board on Teaching the U.S. History Survey Course. This Advisory Board focused its efforts on fulfilling the goals of the La Pietra Report. So by forging an alliance with the College Board, Bender and his allies discovered a way to transform the teaching of U.S. history.
Ted Dickson, who served as Co-Chair of the AP U.S. History Curriculum Development and Assessment Committee (the body that wrote the new AP U.S. History Framework), was an original member of the joint panel seeking to advance the goals of the La Pietra Report.
In June of 2004, just as the Joint OAH/AP Advisory Board was searching for ways to reshape the teaching of U.S. history along “transnational” lines, Thomas Bender was invited to address hundreds of readers gathered to grade the essay portion of that year’s AP U.S. History Exam. Bender’s talk, still available at the AP Central website, reflects his political agenda. Speaking in the wake of the American invasion of Iraq, Bender argues that historians who offer narratives of American exceptionalism “bear some responsibility” for reinforcing “a unilateralist understanding of the United States in the world.” That attitude, says Bender, must be fought.
Offering an alternative, transnational history designed to combat American “unilateralism,” Bender says that Columbus and his successors didn’t discover America so much as they discovered “the ocean world,” a new global community united by the oceans. The oceans, in turn, made possible the slave trade and the birth of modern capitalism, which improved the lives of European, but brought exploitation and tragic injustice to the rest of the world. Bender concludes that early American history is only partially about “utopian dreams of opportunity or escape”. The beginnings of the American story, says Bender, are also deeply rooted in the birth of capitalism, and the “capture, constraint, and exploitation” this implies.
In other words, Bender wants early American history to be less about the Pilgrims, Plymouth Colony, and John Winthrop’s “City on a Hill” speech, and more about the role of the plantation economy and the slave trade in the rise of an intrinsically exploitative international capitalism.
If the College Board didn’t fully understand the political agenda behind Bender’s La Pietra Report before his talk to the AP Exam readers, they had to understand it after. Yet instead of distancing themselves from this highly politicized and left-leaning approach to American history, the College Board redoubled its efforts on Bender’s behalf.
The OAH-AP Joint Advisory Board decided to publish a collection of essays that would serve as a how-to manual for adopting the recommendations of Bender’s La Pietra Report. So, for example, a scholarly essay on American “cultural imperialism” would be paired with a piece by a high school teacher explaining how the topic of American cultural imperialism could be adapted to the AP U.S. History course. Ted Dickson, future co-chair of the committee that actually wrote the new Framework, was chosen to co-edit this book, which was published in 2008 as America on the World Stage: A Global Approach to U.S. History. Thomas Bender wrote an introduction to the book explaining the philosophy behind the La Pietra Report.
A bit of the material in America on the World Stage—an essay on international responses to the Declaration of Independence, for example—could backfire on Bender by reinforcing an American exceptionalist narrative. Most of the essays in America on the World Stage, however, read like deconstructions of the American story, or catalogues of (alleged) American shame.
Consider the treatment of immigration, which was written by Florida State University historian, Suzanne Sinke, who co-chaired (with Ted Dickson) the committee that wrote the new AP U.S. History Framework. Sinke tells the tale of an early 20th Century ethnically Dutch woman who immigrated to America, merely to leave and go elsewhere. Traditional historians would not treat this woman as an American “immigrant” at all. And that’s the point. Sinke emphasizes that her goal in telling the story of a woman who merely passed through America without deciding to stay and become a citizen is to teach us “to think beyond national histories and the terms that are caught up in them.”
Ted Dickson’s companion piece on how to teach Sinke’s essay (co-authored with Louisa Bond Moffitt), suggests asking students why the term “migration” might be preferable to “immigration.” The answer is that “immigration” implies a specific and permanent national destination, whereas “migration” is simply about the movement of people across borders, without any reference to adopting a national identity. The political subtext is clear: national interest and national identity take second place to the interests of individual “migrants,” whose loyalties are ultimately “transnational.”
So just before they became co-chairs of the committee that redesigned the AP U.S. History Framework, Suzanne Sinke and Ted Dickson worked closely together on a project whose goal was to reshape the U.S. History Survey Course along the lines recommended by Thomas Bender and the La Pietra Report.
Lawrence Charap, the College Board’s AP Curriculum and Content Development Director, is in overall charge of the AP U.S. History redesign process. Presumably, Sinke and Dickson answer to him. So it is of interest that Charap wrote the companion piece in America on the World Stage to the scholarly article on American cultural imperialism. This scholarly treatment of American cultural imperialism, penned by left-leaning University of Michigan historian Penny Von Eschen, is relentlessly critical of America’s economic and military presence in the world. Eschen, for example, touts the Marxist tract, How to Read Donald Duck, by Ariel Dorfman and Armand Mattelhart, as the classic treatment of American cultural imperialism. How to Read Donald Duck explores the subtle and sinister ways in which Disney cartoons advocate “adherence to the U.S. economic system and capitalist values and work ethic,” as if this was a very bad thing.
Charap’s essay highlights America’s commercial advertisements and anti-Soviet propaganda efforts in the Middle East during the Cold War. Charap seeks out off-putting examples of American propaganda and then suggests that students to put themselves in the places of people in the Soviet block or developing world as they respond to the American presence. This, indeed, is teaching students to see their country through the eyes of its alleged “victims” and enemies.
So the three people most immediately responsible for the writing of the new AP U.S. History Framework were intimately involved in the College Board’s effort to transform the teaching of American history along the lines of Bender’s La Pietra Report. What’s more, the AP U.S. History redesign process began in August of 2006, just about the time America on the World Stage was taking shape. Dickson, a co-editor of that book, was on the original redesign committee as well as the later one that actually wrote the new AP U.S. History Framework. Dickson himself notes that his work with the OAH (which largely focused on advancing the goals of the La Pietra Report) was a key factor in the College Board’s decision to appoint him to the AP U.S. History Redesign Commission. How can American conservatives, moderates, and even traditional liberals trust an AP U.S. History redesign effort led by figures who were so deeply enmeshed in a leftist attempt to reshape the American history curriculum?
A detailed analysis of the new AP U.S. History Framework is for another time. Suffice it to say that in its downplaying of America’s traditional national story and emphasis instead on material causation and exploitation within the context of a transnational Atlantic World, the new AP U.S. History Framework is a huge step in the direction of precisely the sort of de-nationalized American history advocated by Thomas Bender and the La Pietra Report.
It is also important to emphasize that the concept of American exceptionalism, which is systematically excised from, and contradicted by, the redesigned Framework, is an integral part of several state curriculum guides, including the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS). That raises serious legal questions about the compatibility of the redesigned Framework with state standards.
This is not to say that Bender, the La Pietra Report, and the attack on American exceptionalism are the only important ideological influences on the redesigned AP U.S. History Framework. Several other important streams of political and intellectual influence have shaped the new Framework, and I will be detailing these in future reports.
It is true, of course, that as on much else, Americans are divided about how best to teach and understand U.S. history. This is precisely why the new, lengthy, and detailed AP U.S. History Framework is such a bad idea. The brief five-page conceptual guideline the Framework replaced allowed sufficient flexibility for teachers to approach U.S. History from a wide variety of perspectives. Liberals, conservatives, and anyone in-between could teach U.S. history their way, and still see their students do well on the AP Test. The College Board’s new and vastly more detailed guidelines can only be interpreted as an attempt to hijack the teaching of U.S. history on behalf of a leftist political and ideological perspective. The College Board has drastically eroded the freedom of states, school districts, teachers, and parents to choose the history they teach their children. That is why this change must not stand.