Governor Herbert calls for Common Core reviews

Yesterday morning, Governor Herbert made a major announcement about Common Core. He’s called for the Utah A.G. to do a legal review in regards to potential federal intrusion in the standards process, a review of the standards by Utah educators, and asking for parental feedback on the standards. I was contacted by Ben Wood at the Deseret News and asked for a comment. Here’s what I sent Ben after reviewing the Governor’s speech and press release (http://www.utah.gov/governor/news_media/article.html?article=10183) which included comments about SAGE testing and data collection.

Oak: “I applaud the Governor for initiating a review of the situation. There are a number of things I think have been missing from the discussion on Common Core, and I welcome a review by the AG’s office, particularly if it extends to just how much control of Utah’s education system policies the federal government controls. I agree with the Governor that local control is paramount, and unfortunately, what the state office of education has done is consistently tried to turn this discussion into one about the standards, instead of where our real issues lie with the major reforms we adopted as part of the “Common Core state standards” package, which anyone can read if they take the time to go to the source documents. There are some significant issues with the standards, but they aren’t on a “line item” basis. Alignment with other states is now allowing federal organizations like the College Board to direct curriculum based on how they control college tests like the ACT and SAT. There are some significant challenges we face and it is paramount that we do everything in our power to shift to true local control where parents, teachers, and students have maximum control over the educational pathway our children pursue.”

What should happen is we get the state auditor to investigate all the flows of money as well as the attorney general investigating all the reforms and all aspects of federal control in Utah’s education system.

To read Ben’s article, click here:

http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865607074/Herbert-on-Common-Core-We-are-going-to-settle-this-question-once-and-for-all.html

To read the governor’s speech, click here:

Gov Herbert’s Remarks – Putting the best interest of our students first (PDF file – 43k)

Why NCLB is better than Common Core

Working with state education officials, Senator Margaret Dayton led the charge against No Child Left Behind when it was introduced over a decade ago. She knew it was bad policy and spelled trouble for Utah.

I asked Senator Margaret Dayton to look at what I posted yesterday, along with Terryl Warner’s email (state board member) and Senator Dayton said both my article and Terryl’s comments are accurate. This is a real challenge to address. However, Sen. Dayton gave me some additional information showing that under No Child Left Behind, Utah now has a tool to give us greater flexibility and not be bound by some of the controls it implements.

Sidebar: Initially the state legislature was in favor of repealing NCLB in Utah. Then the feds threatened to take away our education funding, AND other non-education related federal funding. It was extortion and the legislature folded.

According to the Utah State Office of Education reports, we get anywhere from 8 to 12% of our education funding from the feds. According to Sen. Dayton, that comparatively small piece of money lets the feds set 90% of school policy. To learn the origin of “strings attached” in this manner, buy a copy of the small book, The Leipzig Connection. You’ll get an eye-opening account of how organizations like Carnegie and Rockefeller foundations wanted to change education policy and would donate small amounts, IF the receiving organization would just use it in certain ways…

Back to topic… The tool Sen. Dayton gave Utah is HB 135 – Implementing Federal Education Programs. It passed unanimously in the legislature in 2005. Here are some portions of what the bill did for Utah. Reverting back to NCLB would give Utah a lot more flexibility than it had when NCLB was first introduced. I do not know the history of how this law impacted things from 2005 when it was passed, till 2008/9/10 when Race to the Top, and Common Core reforms were applied for and adopted.

 

182          53A-1-903. Federal programs — School official duties.

183          (1) School officials may:
184          (a) apply for, receive, and administer funds made available through programs of the
185      federal government;
186          (b) only expend federal funds for the purposes for which they are received and are
187      accounted for by the state, school district, or charter school; and
188          (c) reduce or eliminate a program created with or expanded by federal funds to the
189      extent allowed by law when federal funds for that program are subsequently reduced or
190      eliminated.
191          (2) School officials shall:
192          (a) prioritize resources, especially to resolve conflicts between federal provisions or
193      between federal and state programs, including:
194          (i) providing first priority to meeting state goals, objectives, program needs, and
195      accountability systems as they relate to federal programs; and
196          (ii) providing second priority to implementing federal goals, objectives, program needs,
197      and accountability systems that do not directly and simultaneously advance state goals,
198      objectives, program needs, and accountability systems;

199          (b) interpret the provisions of federal programs in the best interest of students in this
             200      state;
             201          (c) maximize local control and flexibility;
             202          (d) minimize additional state resources that are diverted to implement federal programs
             203      beyond the federal monies that are provided to fund the programs;
             204          (e) request changes to federal educational programs, especially programs that are
             205      underfunded or provide conflicts with other state or federal programs, including:
             206          (i) federal statutes;
             207          (ii) federal regulations; and
208          (iii) other federal policies and interpretations of program provisions; and
209          (f) seek waivers from all possible federal statutes, requirements, regulations, and
210      program provisions from federal education officials to:
211          (i) maximize state flexibility in implementing program provisions; and
212          (ii) receive reasonable time to comply with federal program provisions.
213          (3) The requirements of school officials under this part, including the responsibility to

 

214      lobby federal officials, are not intended to mandate school officials to incur costs or require the
215      hiring of lobbyists, but are intended to be performed in the course of school officials’ normal
216      duties.
217          Section 6. Sectio

218          53A-1-904. No Child Left Behind — State implementation.
219          (1) (a) In accordance with the No Child Left Behind Act, including Section 9527,
220      school officials shall determine if the No Child Left Behind Act:
221          (i) requires the state to spend state or local resources in order to comply with the No
222      Child Left Behind Act; or
223          (ii) causes the state, local education agencies, or schools to change curriculum in order
224      to comply.
225          (b) School officials shall request a waiver under Section 9401 of the No Child Left
226      Behind Act of any provision of the No Child Left Behind Act that violates Section 9527.
227          (2) In addition to the duties described under Subsection (1), school officials shall:
228          (a) request reasonable time to comply with the provisions of the No Child Left Behind
229      Act;
230          (b) lobby congress for needed changes to the No Child Left Behind Act; and
231          (c) lobby federal education officials for relief from the provisions of the No Child Left
232      Behind Act, including waivers from federal requirements, regulations, and administrative
233      burdens.
234          (3) School officials shall lobby Congress and federal education officials for needed
235      resolution and clarification for conflicts between the No Child Left Behind Act and the
236      Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
237          (4) In the case of conflicts between the No Child Left Behind Act and the Individuals
238      with Disabilities Education Act, the parents, in conjunction with school officials, shall
239      determine which program best meets the educational needs of the student.

Why Utah should not renew the ESEA/NCLB waiver

Utah is in the midst of deciding whether or not to renew our ESEA (Elementary and Secondary Education Act) waiver which is the waiver from some of the stringent requirements of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) mess. NCLB was a deeply flawed law that encouraged states to set the bar low so that the Annual Yearly Progress (AYP) requirements could be met each year. It included a number of onerous reporting requirements as well that put undue burdens on our schools. That said, the Common Core reform package has been called NCLB on steroids because its vast reach surpasses what NCLB envisioned.

One point of clarification before continuing, someone recently emailed me the technical review by the federal Department of Education for the Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools application for Race to the Top funds (http://www2.ed.gov/programs/racetothetop-district/2012/finalists/metropolitannashvillepublicschoolstn.pdf) . The federal reviewer of the application in section A1 states:

“A clear embrace of aligning curriculum, improving professional development, improving teacher quality through effective teacher evaluation, the Common Core Standards adoption, among others. The CCSS are, by definition, linked to college/career ready standards. Thus, the vision’s link to these is important with respect to connecting to the core assurances.”

Thus we know that all references to “College and Career Ready Standards” are by definition, Common Core Standards.

The waiver from NCLB that states applied for in 2012 contain 11 waivers from NCLB provisions that were mostly tied to AYP requirements and how states must utilize some Title 1 funds (Title 1 is for low income, disadvantaged students).

After the waiver section where states check the boxes requesting that waiver, there is a section called “assurances”. The second “assurance” by the states reads:

It will adopt English language proficiency (ELP) standards that correspond to the State’s college and career‐ready standards, consistent with the requirement in ESEA section 3113(b)(2), and that reflect the academic language skills necessary to access and meet the new college‐ and career‐ready standards, no later than the 2013–2014 school year. (Principle 1)

In Utah’s application for the ESEA waiver (http://www2.ed.gov/policy/eseaflex/ut.pdf), we read:

“The elements found in the Utah waiver application associated with Principles 1, 2 and 3 were in place before the application for waiver process began. The following details the variety of ways that diverse stakeholders, including teachers and communities, were informed and encouraged to provide input.”

So how did we put these principles into place before the application for waiver process began? Again from Utah’s waiver application document.

“Principle 1 College and Career‐Ready Expectations for All Students Stakeholder Consultation The Utah State Board of Education (USBE) adopted the College and Career Readiness Student Standards(CCSS) in June 2010.”

A big thank you to the state office of education for admitting that we adopted Common Core in June 2010, which was the same month Common Core standards were released.

The point here is that the ESEA flexibility waiver’s main “string” is that if you want released from the AYP requirements of NCLB, you have to be on Common Core. Now I haven’t researched what has happened to the few states who didn’t adopt Common Core and if they got their waiver applications through with the feds, but this waiver seemed to me to be a direct shot at those states telling them they needed to get in line and adopt Common Core or else continue with NCLB. There is a battle in congress right now over renewing NCLB. The House and Senate have different plans and there’s talk of eliminating it which is exactly what needs to happen. NCLB should face a “nullification” effort by the states to declare it constitutionally invalid because the federal government has NO authority to step into education. Education is a state issue.

Here’s a few more tidbits from Utah’s ESEA waiver application.

“Check here if you are interested in collaborating with the Department in this evaluation, if your request for the flexibility is approved.” (Utah checked this box and then provided this explanation)

“Utah is interested in collaborating with the U.S. Department of Education to evaluate the effectiveness of our efforts under Principle 2: State‐developed differentiated recognition, accountability, and support. Utah stakeholders have invested considerable time and expertise in the articulation of a comprehensive system for school accountability. The proposed Utah Comprehensive Accountability System (UCAS) includes three components: achievement, growth, and readiness. This system will result in a performance/growth target assigned to each Utah school, and is designed to improve student achievement and school performance, close achievement gaps, and increase the quality of instruction for all students.
This accountability approach is significantly different from Utah’s current accountability system. As Utah implements the UCAS, an evaluation of the impact of the system on Utah schools and communities is critical for the process of continual improvement and refinement of the system.”

In checking the box requesting collaboration with the feds, Utah gives further credence to the notion of federal involvement in our state education system.

“Establishing curriculum with high standards and relevance for all Utah children (Principle 1) In January 1984, The USBE established policy requiring the identification of specific core curriculum standards to be completed by all K‐12 students as requisite for graduation from Utah’s secondary schools. The Elementary and Secondary School Core Curriculum is defined in Board rule R277‐700.

The new Utah college‐ and career‐ready student standards for English language arts and mathematics provide a performance‐based pathway to ensure all students in Utah public schools are prepared with knowledge and skills to succeed in college and careers for today’s economy. The Utah Core Curricula, which now incorporates these standards, is taught with respect to difference in student learning styles, rates, and individual capabilities without losing sight of established standards. (epic fail on this point) Professional development has been provided to LEA staff regarding the use of standards‐based (CCSS) individualized educational programs (IEPs) and alternative language interventions to address the instructional needs of students with disabilities and English language learners transitioning to the CCSS.”

All federal programs are essentially a one-size-fits-all approach to education. What has happened since the feds got involved in education a few decades ago? Massive spending increases, no improvement in education, and more kids on Ritalin.

The ESEA waiver should not be renewed because it gives credence to federal involvement in Utah education, it includes new strings by the feds that mandate the use of Common Core standards and other reforms, and NCLB just needs repealed/nullified so that states gain power and stop begging the feds for crumbs from the masters table. We also shouldn’t be setting policy through waivers but through laws. The only real solution to educational issues is a return to true local control where parents, teachers, and students collaborate on what’s best for their children’s education.

——————————-

Someone just forwarded me an email from Terryl Warner which is a well thought out email I thought I should include here. I don’t have responses to all of these items but I do stand by what I wrote above that we should be seeking to nullify federal education involvement.

Hi,

I appreciate your email regarding this issue and thought I would take a few minutes to respond.   It is my understanding that the ESEA waiver and the Common Core State Standards are two separate decision-making processes.   Whether we renew or don’t renew the ESEA waiver, we have adopted and implemented the Common Core State Standards and those will continue no matter the decision regarding the ESEA waiver.

I have researched the ESEA waiver over the past few months and this is what I have found:

**  The ESEA waiver waives the requirement to follow No Child Left Behind; No Child Left Behind was from the President Bush era and indicated that 100% of students would be 100% proficient in core subjects by the end of the 2013-2014 school year.  It is my understanding that no school in Utah will live up to that goal.

**   The ESEA waiver allows us to use our own accountability measurements instead of the federal Department of Education accountability measures.

**   The ESEA waiver up for renewal would be for one year only.  In the last Board meeting we were informed that after the waiver is signed, we could always opt out of it at any time; however, if we made a conscious vote to not renew the waiver, we could not go back and try to get the waiver at a later date.

**   Utah receives about $500 million in federal funds; Title 1 funds (for low-income students) are at about $100 million of that allotment.  Title 1 funds are used primarily for reading and math programs, after-school tutoring programs, aides in the classroom, etc.

 

What happens if the ESEA waiver is signed:

**  Utah does NOT have to be compliant with No Child Left Behind.

**  Utah uses it’s own accountability measurements.
What happens if the ESEA waiver is NOT signed:

**    Even if Utah does NOT renew the waiver, we would still receive the Title 1 funds; however, 20% of the funds would immediately have to be set aside to provide provide before/after school services, transportation away from failing schools, restructuring school improvement plans, hiring private tutoring programs and hiring outside consultants to work with failed schools.   This equals approximately $23,221,997 in lost funds to schools.  How do we replace those funds?

**   Once the decision to not renew the waiver is made, the 20% set aside requirement would begin.  This means that we the State Board does not renew the waiver on Thursday or in August’s meeting, these changes would begin in our 2014-15 school year.  Please note that all Title 1 schools in Utah will be labelled failing schools.

**   Utah will not be able to use it’s own accountability measurement process; Utah will be required to use the federal process.

To me, if we do not sign the waiver at this point, we will be under more federal control as we will have to begin implementing the federal improvement program.   I have contacted the offices of Senators Hatch and Lee along with the offices of Congressmen Bishop and Chaffetz; all have said that the federal government probably won’t replace No Child Left Behind for the next two years.  This puts us in a dilemma:  do we approve the waiver and allow local districts to use their Title 1 funding in a manner they choose or do we not sign the waiver and go back under federal control?

Here is my biggest concern:  I believe that if Utah does not want to renew the waiver, school districts need more than a handful of weeks to handle the financial loss; unfortunately, NCLB mandates would take place immediately.  It is my understanding from a number of principals  in my District (District 1), that the schools would take significant financial losses if the waiver is not renewed.  One idea I have thought about is to renew the waiver for one year only – this gives local districts the opportunity to determine how best to meet the 20% set aside requirement.   To move away completely away from any involvement with the federal government means Utah would lose about $500 million in education funds; I believe that if there is a movement to do this, local stakeholders (parents, community leaders, educators, administrators, elected officials, etc.) need to come together on a local level to determine how local school districts can best handle that significant of a financial cut.

I believe that before a decision affecting millions of dollars is made, we need to give local districts sufficient time to handle the financial impact and ensure the cuts do not outweigh the benefits and I struggle with the idea that we will have to set aside funds with little time to absorb those cuts.

Please let me know what you think about the idea of signing the waiver for one year; during that year, local districts and stakeholders work together to figure out how to absorb the set aside mandate in the 2015-16 school year.

Again, thank you for your input.

Sincerely,

Terryl Warner

District 1

Utah State Board of Education

Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh’s letter to teachers

A few days ago, UEA President Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh sent this letter to UEA teachers all over Utah encouraging them to immediately write legislators and the governor that a “small, vocal minority” (isn’t it always???) is trying to abandon Utah’s core standards.  No, actually we’re trying to run away from Common Core. I love how she emails them on their school email accounts but then tells them to email legislators and the governor from a non-school computer and email account. :)

It’s especially interesting that she would send this out after receiving so many letters from teachers who were having extremely negative experiences with the Common Core SAGE tests  noting “Developmentally inappropriate and despairing prompts that were given.”

Please pass this on to your legislators as to why they got a handful of emails the past few days and reiterate that you are not part of a small, vocal minority, but a growing and sizable part of the population.

UEA Action Bulletin
ALERT: Contact your legislators and the Governor NOW about the Utah Core Standards!


Dear UEA Member:

I realize it’s summer break for the vast majority of teachers, but, as you well know, decisions impacting our classrooms are made throughout the year. I’m asking for your help with one of those decisions now.

A small, vocal minority is putting pressure on the Governor and the Utah Legislature to force the Utah State Board of Education to walk away from years of work and millions of dollars by abandoning Utah’s Core Standards. Please let your legislators know what you think!

There is overwhelming consensus among educators that the Core Standards will ultimately be good for students and education, if implemented properly. There are significant challenges associated with implementing the Core, but the possibilities are immense.

Utah has invested years of work and millions of dollars into creating its standards. There is concern that reversing course on Utah’s Core Standards now would mean starting the process all over again.

• See more about the Utah Core Standards

What you can do:
Contact the Governor and your legislators NOW and share your opinion about the Utah Core Standards.

• Call or email your legislator* ( House / Senate)
Look up your legislators
• Call or email Governor Gary Herbert:
o Tel: 800-705-2464
o Email: governor@utah.gov
 *NOTE: Do not use school computers or email addresses

It’s critical that you contact your legislator ASAP, as decisions impacting you and your students are being made now!

Thank you once again for all you do to influence the future of our great state.

Sincerely,

Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh, UEA President

For more information about the Core Standards:
• myUEA.org/core
• schools.utah.gov/core
• nea.org/home/commoncore
•  achievethecore.org
• corestandards.org

P.S. Please forward this message to co-workers, friends, family and anyone who supports Utah public education.

875 E Pontiac Dr.   Murray, UT 84107-5299   Phone: 801-266-4461   Fax: 801-265-2249
© 2014 Utah Education Association

Pulling Back the Curtain – What’s the Real Agenda behind CCSS?

Last night I made this presentation in Draper. One of the things we need to get away from when talking about Common Core, is the standards. People are getting bogged down in the standards and educrats keep asking parents if they’ve read the standards and which standards they disagree with. These are pointless questions. IT’S NOT ABOUT THE STANDARDS THEMSELVES. Well, maybe 10%. They’re not great standards and several states had superior standards before Common Core. The real problem is the loss of privacy, data collection, loss of sovereignty, and a centuries old agenda that has been pushed at us to destroy the family, destroy religion, and embrace moral relativism. In this presentation I attempt to pull back the curtain and expose that agenda. In one hour there just isn’t time to do justice to this topic. There are so many statements and so much evidence of this it just can’t be fit in, but I do hope this presentation gives you a strong enough witness that Common Core is just the latest idea in the culture war we are engaged in, and isn’t the true problem at the root. We need to get back to local control and sever the ties that bind us to these people.

Here is a pdf file of the presentation.

Constitution Party presentation 6-19-14

Tying school records to other government databases

In an article just sent to me, comes further evidence that there are those seeking to tie school record systems to healthcare and other data systems. Utah’s P20W, federally funded, statewide longitudinal database, tracks our children from preschool through grade 20 and into the workforce. Marrying disparate database systems has long been a goal of central planners to know everything about everyone. Here’s a link to this article and the relevant point.

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

David Nash, M.D., founding dean of the Jefferson School of Population Health at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, Penn., is one of the nation’s foremost experts on the task facing the healthcare industry as it moves to population health management models. He shared some of his insights with Health Data Management recently.

http://www.healthdatamanagement.com/news/Registries-Key-to-Population-Health-Management-48202-1.html

Registries Key to Population Health Management

HDM: In a recent talk, you mentioned that data from so many sources that are not healthcare providers will have to be pulled in to properly serve the population served by Medicaid ACOs.

Nash: That’s the next stage. We are going to see the beginnings of promoting big data for population-based health analytics, and we recognize data systems concerning housing, poverty, smoking, and school attendance, just to name a few, all need to be connected.

Chair of NGA signs bill to repeal CC in OK; SC also repeals CC

Awesome News… Yesterday, Gov. Fallin in Oklahoma signed a bill to repeal Common Core. This is major news as she is the current chair of the National Governor’s Association that claims to have co-created CCSS (Common Core State Standards) with the CCSSO (Council of Chief State School Officers – ie. state superintendents). Thank you for those of you that wrote the governor and helped push her in this direction.

Governor Fallin stated:

“We are capable of developing our own Oklahoma academic standards that will be better than Common Core …  What should have been a bipartisan policy is now widely regarded asthe president’s plan to establish federal control of curricula, testing and teaching strategies.

We cannot ignore the widespread concern of citizens, parents, educators and legislators who have expressed fear that adopting Common Core gives up local control of Oklahoma’s public schools… 

“For that reason I am signing HB 3399 to repeal and replace Common Core with Oklahoma designed and implemented education standards…  They must raise the bar – beyond what Common Core offers…  I also ‘get it’ that Oklahoma standards must be exceptional, so when businesses and military families move to Oklahoma they can rest assured knowing their children will get a great education.

… While those new standards are being written, the state standards for English and math will revert to the Oklahoma Priority Academic Student Skills (PASS) standards used from 2003 to 2010. “

http://www.foxnews.com/us/2014/06/05/oklahoma-repeals-common-core-education-standards/

Also, Gov. Nikki Haley has just signed a bill to get South Carolina out of Common Core.

http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Government/2014/06/05/SC-Gov-Nikki-Haley-Signs-Bill-Requiring-State-To-Replace-Common-Core

Unlike Indiana which may just be getting a rebranding of CCSS with a few tweaks, OK and SC both have language in their bills to prevent this.

Other states with positive news:

North Carolina and Missouri’s legislatures have both passed bills to repeal Common Core which now await the signature of their governors. Where is Governor Herbert? Making sure his state school board selection committee weeds out candidates that have any concerns over Common Core…

We are making progress and we will get there. The ball is rolling and momentum just keeps building. Maybe this will finally be the straw that breaks the back of the US DOEd and neuters them so states are not bound by federal controls.

 

“If they write what they think…they will fail the test”

Someone forwarded me this stunning story about an Arizona teacher who “participated” in the creation of Common Core tests.

http://www.theblaze.com/blog/2014/05/22/a-scathing-interview-with-a-5th-grade-teacher-who-was-in-the-room-when-common-core-was-being-created/

Here’s a snippet:

“A year ago (3/2013), the AZ Dept of Ed asked me to go to Chicago for a week to work on evaluating the writing/reading rubrics for the Common Core/PARCC test. I didn’t have an opinion on Common Core either way. I was curious and I wanted to see what the standards would look like in test form and how that might inform my classroom teaching, so I went. Most teachers were waiting for the Common Core test to come out for the same reason.

Teachers in AZ have a great deal of input into the state test. Teachers create the test and we had the ability to change or tweak test questions if we detected a bias or if we thought the questions or reading passages weren’t truly assessing our students’ learning.

Working on the CCore test was a very different experience and had 50 more shades of bureaucracy. My Common Core handlers weren’t interested in my questions about where the standards came from, who wrote them, who wrote the test questions, etc. If they did attempt an answer they usually parroted the phrase “Teachers were involved.” Something didn’t feel right.

My turning point came when in answer to questions I had about a student writing sample, my Common Core handler blurted out, “We don’t ever care what the kids’ opinions are. If they write what they think or put forth their opinion then they will fail the test.”

I have always taught my students to think for themselves. They are to study multiple views on a given topic, then take their own position and support it with evidence. “That is the old way of writing,” my Common Core handler sighed. “We want students to repeat the opinions of the ‘experts’ that we expose them to on the test. This is the ‘new’ way of writing with the Common Core.”

I discovered later that this was not just some irritated, rogue Common Core handler, rather this was a philosophy I heard repeated again and again. I pointed out that this was not the way that teachers teach in the classroom. She retorted that, “We expect that when the test comes out the teachers in the classroom will imitate the skills emphasized on the test (teach to the test) and employ this new way of writing and thinking.” This was a complete kick in the stomach moment for me.

After that I started to do research on the Common Core and read everything I could get my hands on for the year or so. The more I read the more disgusted I became about the Common Core and the governors who brought it into our lives.

I went back to Chicago again in November 2013 to review reading/writing questions for the Common Core/PARCC test. Again, I wanted to see the test questions and I also wanted to experience the Common Core with all the new knowledge I’d gained. After a week of work I was convinced of the correctness of my feelings and my research about the Common Core. During this visit I worked with Pearson and ETS on the questions they created for the test. Again we were just window dressing so that they could check the box that “teachers were involved.”

Letter to State Board Members on New Math Standards

To write the state board, send an email to: board@schools.utah.gov

Dear State School Board members,

I have reviewed the presentation the USOE has prepared for the math committee members on Thursday night (http://schools.utah.gov/board/Meetings/Agenda/docs/Tab11.aspx). I have a conflict and cannot come to make a public comment so I am emailing you my comments.

I see you are also discussing the search for a new state superintendent. I have honestly appreciated Superintendent Menlove’s outreach, particularly these last few months. He truly made an effort to be a good listener to concerns and also helped resolve them, particularly as families around the state had difficulty opting their children out of SAGE tests. That said, I believe it is time to hire from outside the education circles of Utah. There are people within the power structure that must be fired. It is very difficult for friends to fire friends. Political games are played to ensure their jobs. Hiring from out of state would allow someone to come in and clean house and give the USOE the course correction they need. Someone experienced with a top notch education system elsewhere would be an ideal candidate.

It is obvious from the USOE presentation to you just how biased they are toward maintaining CCSS in Utah. During the last legislative session they succeeded in getting a $2 million fiscal note attached to Rep. Layton’s bill to replace Common Core, so I am happy to see they have dramatically lowered that figure for your presentation. Replacing standards is not nearly as expensive as they want to make it look. In fact, I know they were telling people that adopting Common Core was free, while doing anything else was expensive. Common Core was not free, it was quite expensive, but since Bill Gates funded its multi-million dollar creation and we only had to spend some millions of dollars in Utah to implement it, I guess we can play the game that it was free.

There happen to be free or extremely low cost solutions that are far superior to Common Core.

In math, we could adopt California, Indiana, or Massachusetts’ pre-Common Core math standards which Fordham identified as clearly superior to CCSS. The wonderful thing here is solid textbooks were completely aligned for CA due to its population size, and assessments would most likely be available with a 100% match to those standards.

In English, we have the Massachusetts revision to their excellent ELA standards, which never got implemented due to MA adopting CCSS. We also have another set of “English Success Standards” written by teachers which is free and could be adopted for free. We also have a standing offer from Dr. Sandra Stotsky, one of the MA authors, to come to Utah for the cost of lodging and incidentals, and work with Utah teachers to create our own top of the nation ELA standards.

I was heavily involved in getting Utah the 2007 standards. In 2009, before the 2007 standards had even been fully implemented in the state, the USOE signed onto an agreement to develop CC. This caused a number of districts to slow or stop their roll out of the 2007 standards because they knew something else was coming. By 2010, CCSS was released and adopted so many districts never even fully rolled out the 2007 standards because of the speed with which they were replaced. For the USOE to say that only 44% of students on the 2007 standards would achieve the 66% college goal of the governor is a wild falsehood and a scare tactic. They have no idea. For them to say CCSS will achieve this goal is also a wild stab in the dark since these standards are an experiment that just begun. Fordham actually said our 2007 standards were clearer and stronger than CCSS. Further, the 2007 standards would have been even stronger if the USOE had not wholesale rejected the recommendations of Dr. Wu, the external reviewer from Berkeley, for those standards. Their disgust at having to replace our D rated prior standards showed through the process and we wound up with A- rated standards instead of what would have probably been A rated standards. What we had was superior to Common Core and what we would have gotten would have put us in line with states like CA, IN, and MA.

Further, it is a bald faced lie that CCSS were internationally benchmarked. That has been completely disproven. They are not “world class” standards. The only professional mathematician on the Common Core validation committee, who also writes standards and reviews international standards, refused to sign off on CCSS precisely for this reason that CCSS leaves us 2 years behind international competitors. CCSS is already damaging our children by pushing them too hard in early grades and too slow in upper, particularly due to the awful implementation of the integrated method by the USOE in order that they could push their constructivist agenda into schools with the awful MVP program. Our 2007 standards were supposed to have been internationally benchmarked against Singapore and Japan. Nicole Paulson at the USOE told the committee this would take place, but to my knowledge she never did it.

Utah must have a complete break from anything tied to the federal government. CCSS, regardless of who you think actually created it, has clearly been hijacked by the federal government in an effort to consolidate the powers of education and control the system. The best decision, I believe, is to grant control of standards to the LEAs and shatter the ability for the feds or even the state to affect truly local control. Lets set up the laboratories within the state. There are no parents in this state who are going to want less than a wonderful education experience for their children. We always talk about increasing parental involvement. This would maximize it from the standards perspective. If you’re not willing to do this, then I would strongly recommend adopting the excellent standards of California for which there are textbooks and a large test bank that could be accessed.

The USOE slide of supporters contains a practical who’s who of constructivist, Investigations math loving people, as well as others who are financially benefiting from the USOE. Of course they are going to support them in CCSS!

I wish there was time and space to comment on many other slides in their presentation, but it’s obvious they are biased on their perspective, and it’s obvious that there is a strong growing concern about the direction they are taking Utah. Nothing impacts someone like having their child who once loved math now hate it. It only hits home when it affects you, as several legislators have now had happen to them.

Please get Utah off anything close to CCSS and its one-size-fits-all “solution.” LEA’s controlling their own standards can innovate and do things they otherwise couldn’t do.

Sincerely,

Oak Norton

BYU Math Professor Speaks Out

Last week I received an email from Dr. Tyler Jarvis, the head of BYU’s math department from 2006-2012. A letter had been sent out from the state office of education regarding their Common Core curriculum which they began developing when Common Core was adopted. The program is called Mathematics Vision Project (MVP), and it’s anything but visionary. Here is the USOE (Utah State Office of Education) letter and Dr. Jarvis’ response.

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The Utah State Board of Education will be discussing secondary mathematics standards in a study session at 6:45 pm on Thursday evening (June 5th) and will be taking action on Friday at approximately 3:30 pm.  A recent survey of all elementary teachers and secondary mathematics teachers found that the majority of elementary teachers are positive about the standards and implementation efforts and about half of the secondary mathematics teachers expressed satisfaction with implementation.  However, the majority of both groups have asked us to stay the course and just make improvements where needed.  This is not the message our policymakers are hearing from parents and community members who contact them.  You will find the Board agenda posted at http://www.schools.utah.gov/board/Meetings.aspx starting on Monday, June 2nd.

Thank you for your hard work on behalf of Utah students!  We appreciate you.

Diana Suddreth, STEM Coordinator

Secondary Mathematics, Teaching and Learning

Utah State Office of Education

President

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Who runs public education Diana? Taxpayers. And when you implement a program that taxpayers don’t like, policy makers should listen to taxpayers/parents concerns and act accordingly. Having spoken with school teachers who say their entire math department hates Common Core, I seriously doubt that you have a majority of teachers asking you to stay the course.

Here is Dr. Tyler Jarvis’ letter to the state board, speaking for himself and not BYU. (Emphasis mine)

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Dear Board Members,

I am a professor of mathematics and a father of six children in the Utah public school system. I am deeply committed to public education.

I have recently become aware that the state school board is planning to review the MVP Math curriculum, which is the Utah State Office of Education’s version of the common core integrated math in grades 9-12.

I am writing to express my deep concern over this curriculum.  

To be clear, I should tell you that I am NOT inherently opposed to the ideas and standards in the Common Core.  But the particular implementation that the Utah State Office of Education (USOE) has chosen, MVP Math, is absolutely terrible.

Writing good math textbooks is hard work and requires both extensive content knowledge and substantial pedagogical skill.  MVP Math appears to have been dashed off in a great hurry by people who have neither content knowledge nor pedagogical skill.

The exposition is inadequate, confusing, and often just missing entirely.  Definitions, which are essential for clear thinking and are the foundation of all mathematics, are missing.  Unlike a well-designed curriculum which builds on itself and re-uses concepts that were taught earlier, MVP math has assembled topics in a way that feels random, with unrelated topics being tossed in together, one after another.

Many parents have come to me to ask why they and their children suddenly can’t understand the school mathematics curriculum.  These are children who were doing well in mathematics until Utah adopted the new curriculum.  These are parents who did well in mathematics in high school and college and should have no trouble understanding the basic content being taught, but it is so poorly written, so confusing, that they can’t make sense of it.

My own son had such difficulty with the MVP curriculum, that I finally took him out of his public school mathematics course.  Because of his IEP we were able to get him enrolled in a traditional algebra course, which he finds much more understandable.  He is now succeeding, where with MVP math he was having terrible problems.

I dread the day that my other children reach high school and have the MVP math inflicted upon them.  I also worry very much about the additional remediation I will have to do with graduates of the Utah system when they arrive at my college classroom.

In a recent USOE survey roughly half of all High School Math teachers stated that they were unsatisfied with the current implementation.  This is especially significant because the people running the survey–the USOE–are precisely the people who chose this awful implementation, AND they control many aspects of these teachers’ employment.  Yet, half of these teachers were brave enough to state they are unsatisfied with the current implementation.

Mathematics is fundamental to success in the modern world.  It is my considered opinion, as an experienced teacher of mathematics, that MVP Math will severely threaten Utah children’s ability to compete in the international workforce.  

The United States is already doing much worse at teaching our children mathematics than most developed countries. We’re not just worse than China and the rest of Eastern Asia–we are also below most of Europe, including Spain, Russia, Poland, Estonia, and Latvia.  And Utah children are scoring well below the US average.

This does not bode well for our children.

We must replace MVP Math with texts that are well written, by people who know what they are doing.  

The USOE employees responsible for curriculum, and especially mathematics, have failed our children.  Please, let’s replace this awful text.

Tyler Jarvis

-Professor of Mathematics
-Former Rock Canyon Elementary School Community Council member
-Recipient of the Savage Foundation Award for Distinguished Teaching of Mathematics.
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Thank you Dr. Jarvis for speaking out. Folks, please ask the state board to replace these people at the USOE. They actively fought the improved 2007 math standards over the prior D rated standards, they adopted Common Core in a hurry and when Dr. David Wright at BYU warned them there were no integrated math textbooks available and this was a bad idea to rush into it, they said not to worry, they’d be creating their own. Their own is MVP and it’s a constructivist disaster. Time to replace people.

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