Online Brainstorming Session

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

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

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

3 questions for those who favor CCSS

I would like to invite those who favor Common Core State Standards to answer these questions for me. Thus far (2.5 years+), I have been unable to get sufficient answers to these questions as to provide me any level of assurance that the Utah State Office of Education didn’t simply adopt CCSS for a shot at Race to the Top money (which they didn’t receive). Subsequently, they have proceeded to tell the public we adopted CCSS to get superior standards because CCSS was internationally benchmarked and superior to our Utah standards. This information has never been proven, and in fact, one organization’s analysis proves the contrary.

1) Will you please describe for me what was deficient in our (Fordham) A- rated 2007 Utah math standards which necessitated adopting CCSS?

USOE saw no problem with our prior D rated 2002 math standards that made it critical that we improve them in 2007, and they testified against improving them in 2006 to our legislators. Our 2007 standards have been declared better than CCSS by the Fordham Foundation.

2) What research can you show that CCSS was ever internationally benchmarked?

Here is a quote from the American Educational Research Association and contradicts the claims made by the USOE that Common Core was internationally benchmarked.

“International Benchmarking:
Wisconsin’s SEC database contains some information on content standards for other countries. In mathematics, there are data for Finland, Japan, and Singapore on eighth-grade standards; alignments to the U.S. Common Core are .21, .17, and .13, respectively. All three of these countries have higher eighth-grade mathematics achievement levels than does the United States. The content differences that lead to these low levels of alignment for cognitive demand are, for all three countries, a much greater emphasis on ‘perform procedures’ than found in the U.S. Common Core standards. For each country, approximately 75% of the content involves ‘perform procedures,’ whereas in the Common Core standards, the percentage for procedures is 38%.”

It’s even worse for Utah because of the integrated path the USOE chose to implement along with Vermont. They specifically put algebra 1 completion in 9th grade for most students so that Utah will never be on par with states or nations that put a normal path to algebra 1 completion in 8th grade. Here’s a brief writeup Ze’ev Wurman did on CCSS vs. our 2007 standards ( http://www.utahnsagainstcommoncore.com/utah-math-is-not-accelerated-under-common-core/

Here is Dr. David Wright in BYU’s math department pointing out 8 problems with the way the USOE implemented CCSS in Utah. (http://www.utahnsagainstcommoncore.com/dr-david-wright-vs-usoe-8-0-for-dr-wright)

3) What do you have against Utah not having better and proven standards which Fordham says are clearly superior to CCSS and which WERE specifically benchmarked to Singapore and Japan, and why shouldn’t we have adopted these in the first place? (OK, that’s 2 questions)

(ex. CA’s math standards which have a proven track record of dramatically improving math proficiency for all children including socio-economic groups and minorities.) http://www.utahnsagainstcommoncore.com/solution-utah-should-adopt-californias-math-standards

 

National Takeover

I just thought I’d point out that what we’ve been saying for so long is happening right in front of our faces. There is a concerted effort in this country by those who are in positions to wield enormous power, to centralize the education system and bring it under a common roof with their own sentinels at the “Gates” (a little pun for the observant…).

A short time ago we posted this article showing how Arne Duncan is moving to phase out the power of states to set their own standards.

Now the Obama administration is looking to control what’s happening in university colleges of education which has the effect of moving evaluations of teachers and institutions from the state level to the federal level.

“Under the new rules, teachers’ colleges would be ranked based upon how well their teacher graduates do in raising their students’ scores on the Common Core assessments…Instead of teachers’ colleges being evaluated on solid evidence of having taught students a solid knowledge-based foundation, they would be evaluated on a workforce development accountability plan set up by the federal government based upon Common Core Standards.”

Finally, Bill Gates is funding the development of specific curriculum with Pearson to be aligned to Common Core. Recall that Gates video where he says we won’t know if Common Core is successful until standards, curriculum, and assessments are all aligned? It’s all a giant experiment which is now entering the next stage of control.

Those who continue to ridicule and believe that there is no movement toward a national takeover are going to find it harder and harder to make that case. The news just keeps pouring out at a tremendous pace.

 

 

Second Parent Member of Utah SAGE Test Review Committee Speaks Out

From: http://whatiscommoncore.wordpress.com/2014/11/24/second-parent-member-of-utah-sage-test-review-committee-speaks-out/

This is the second in a series of posts to be added by members of Utah’s Common Core SAGE test’s parent review board.  Parent Molly Hunter spoke out previously and is joined now by fellow mom Christine Ruiz as a SAGE parent review committee member who also wishes to set the record straight and to expose the objectionable aspects of the tests.

SAGE Parent Review Committee Member Speaks Out

By Christine Ruiz

In 2013 the Utah Legislature mandated  parental review of SAGE test questions and established what is now called the SAGE Parent Review Committee. It was a response to concerns that the computer adaptive tests could include biases or agendas that are objectionable to Utah family values.

 

Much has been written about the committee and unfortunately some of it has been misleading. Consequently many Utah parents are misinformed about the review committee and are making decisions with that ‘bad information’; decisions that affect their children.

 

I am one of those committee members and I’d like to correct the record.

 

The statute, 53A-1-603, is vague as it relates to our duties; “…a committee consisting of 15 parents of Utah public education students to review all computer adaptive test questions.” Yep, that’s it. Talk about your nutshell.

So, here’s what we did and didn’t do.

 

WE DID review all questions (about 1500 each).

WE DID flag questions for a variety of reasons (grammar, typos, content, wrong answers, glitches, etc.).

WE DID sign nondisclosure statements (agreeing not to discuss specific test questions and materials).

 

Now the important part …

WE DID NOT ‘approve’ the test. We were neither tasked to nor qualified to approve the test in any aspect.

It has been erroneously suggested that “…we all feel comfortable with the test” in an article by the Deseret News (Nov 2013). That’s a misleading quote from only one member of the committee. That statement was actually contradicted by another member later in the same article. But it’s no surprise here; we expect that from the media.

However, the Utah State Office of Education (USOE) perpetuated that myth when it plastered that same quote all over its SAGE informational brochures. We/ I expect more due diligence from USOE.

I never received a phone call to verify that I concurred and I suspect the same is true for the rest of the committee. It was either an act of deliberate deceit or jaw-dropping negligence to tell parents across the state that the Parent Review Committee gives its blanket approval of the test. Neither option comforts me in the slightest.

I shudder to think that some parents may have decided to let their children take the SAGE because ‘we’ said it’s okay. That’s on me and every other committee member that feels the same as I, and didn’t speak out sooner.

This myth and any others perpetrated in the future will no longer go unanswered by this committee member. That’s a promise.

Christine Ruiz

———————————————————

state statute 53A1603

(8)

(a) The State Board of Education shall establish a committee consisting of 15 parents of Utah

public education students to review all computer adaptive test questions.

(b) The committee established in Subsection (8)(a) shall include the following parent members:

(i) five members appointed by the chair of the State Board of Education;

(ii) five members appointed by the speaker of the House of Representatives; and

(iii) five members appointed by the president of the Senate.

(c) The State Board of Education shall provide staff support to the parent committee.

(d) The term of office of each member appointed in Subsection (8)(b) is four years.

(e) The chair of the State Board of Education, the speaker of the House of Representatives, and

the president of the Senate shall adjust the length of terms to stagger the terms of committee

members so that approximately 1/2 of the committee members are appointed every two

years.

(f) No member may receive compensation or benefits for the member’s service on the committee.

First Parent Member of Utah SAGE Test Review Committee Speaks Out

Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act. -Dietrich Bonhoeffer
app
According to Utah law, a 15-member parent committee must be assembled to review the test questions on the Common Core SAGE test prior to the test being administered statewide.
Members of the committee now report that, contrary to what was reported by the Utah State Office of Education and the media, there was no consensus of approval on SAGE by the parent committee. Several members want to set the record straight. Here is the first of what will be a series of parental testimonies that all was not well with SAGE tests.  This comes from committee member Molly Foster, with her permission.

Email from Molly Foster (written to the other members of the 15-parent committee to review SAGE test questions)

… In the spring when I was made aware of the USOE putting words in my mouth I contacted Judy Park several times, through email and phone messages to no avail until I sent a more honest email to her one day, she immediately responded. I will enclose our emailed conversation.

…The results of the SAGE test across the state were not surprising for the 5 Supers I spoke to in southern Utah. Judy Park herself told them in training that the students would fail until they got all the curriculum aligned, this could take years, and quite frankly by then they will have another mandatory program they are shoving down each district’s throat, keeping everybody busy testing instead of teaching, and most importantly nurturing human relationships within their own schools and communities… Let’s not forget that the test scores are also tied to school grades, and teacher performance pay.

As a teacher, I believe formative and summative assessing is best done at district level. An antiquated idea, I know. While our law makers spend their time passing bills with the impression they are providing a little vehicles for educators in their state to produce “college and career ready” students, even “globally” ready for life I have to laugh (in order to not cry).
Last I checked, this is America! The rest of the world is trying to come here to work and live. Remember? We have the liberty and freedom to work and educate people as we so desire. Comparing test scores to kids in Scandinavia or Singapore does nothing. Their kids in the end have no choice of whether they will pursue arts, science, technology, this is decided for them before many have even hit puberty! I love that American kids get to choose. Some may really like science through high school but when they begin college they may find a new love for the arts and find a degree in that pursuit. In America you may even decide NOT to go to college (gasp!). Isn’t this the greatest country?!
The state is not going to get rid of a 38 million dollar exam anytime in the next few years. The parent committee is nothing but a political move they will continue to use to their advantage as long as ya’ll stay quiet and polite. Best case scenario for me would be to administer it only at the end of the year, just like the old state tests.
Cut any ties it has to teacher performance pay, and school grading. If they think this is silly you should tell Judy Park and the rest of the USOE staff and all the legislators to take it themselves three times a year, tell them they will be fired if they don’t score at an appropriate global level. Tell them not to get nervous when they sit down in front of a computer for 2-4 hours a day, for 5 days, 3 times yearly. They might have to start “working to the test” but in the end it will all be worth it, I am sure they will immediately understand why this multi million dollar test is the only way to make them college and career ready. They will see how easy it is to judge their workday hours on a CAT exam, they can grade each employee and determine pay scales on their scores.
You were all a great bunch of parents and I urge you to each speak. Share your personal opinions with the parents, teachers and administrators in your communities, that is why you are there! Be honest with the USOE. Best part…..you don’t have to all have the same opinion!
But you do have the obligation to the people you represent to be their voice. Teachers and administrators cannot safely voice personal opinion. I have a lot of family members and loved ones working in Utah that need more parents to make a stand for education. Lucky for them there are some real smart, delightful people on the committee that will do just that!
Enjoy another round of tests!
Best to each of you!
Molly Foster
The emails:
————————————————
Ms. Park,
 
I am very disturbed at what you said in a recent letter sent to districts across the state:
 
“There are also concerns that the test questions contain inappropriate content of a social or political nature.  Every question on the SAGE assessment has been reviewed by the 15 member parent committee last fall.  Every parent on the panel (including the parents that do not support the common core) agreed that there was nothing in the questions that was inappropriate.”
 
I am on your 15 member parent committee and you know we agreed there were questions that were inappropriate.
 
It is unfortunate that I have to tell people that the USOE is not a trustworthy entity. I did not intend my participation that week to be a blanket validation for your political purposes.
 
Thank you.
 
Molly Foster
————————————————
From Utah State Office of Education’s Dr. Judy Park to Molly Foster:
Molly, I am so sorry that you misunderstood my comments.  I am regularly receiving concerns that the questions have inappropriate language and are pushing a social agenda.  When we held the parent debrief panel the last day of the parent committee review, when asked if the test questions had inappropriate words or pushed a social agenda (I don’t remember exactly how it was worded), all 15 parents responded that the questions did not.  There is no doubt that there were many questions that were flagged by the parent committee.  I have freely shared the information you received from John Jesse that showed the number of items that were flagged by the parent committee and the resolution of those items.  I am also in the process of preparing the items that were dropped from the test due to the input from the parent committee, for public release.  I think it will be very helpful for any interested persons to see the actual items that have been eliminated.  I have tried in all of my comments about the parent committee (written or verbal) to honor the great work of the committee and appropriately portray the views and opinions that were shared.  I will try to be much more specific in the future to hopefully prevent misunderstanding.
Thanks
Judy W. Park, Ed.D.
Utah State Office of Education
Associate Superintendent
Student Services and Federal Programs
———————————————————
Wrong does not cease to be wrong because the majority share in it.
- Leo Tolstoy

Arne Duncan: “Phase out the authority of the states”

(Oak note: As we have repeated said, the problem with Common Core isn’t so much the standards, but the federal overreach and takeover of our education system. This latest development should be a major wake up call to all of Utah.)

Christel Swasey wrote this post at:

http://whatiscommoncore.wordpress.com/2014/11/24/federal-secretary-of-education-to-phase-out-the-authority-of-states/

**********

Have you seen the new regulations that just came out of the White House?

Americans who see these must run screaming to legislators for protection against the Department of Education.

The new regulations declare that Secretary Arne Duncan will amend ESEA to “phase out the authority of States to define modified academic achievement standards and develop alternate assessments based on those modified academic achievement standards in order to satisfy ESEA accountability requirements. These amendments will permit, as a transitional measure, States that meet certain criteria to continue to administer alternate assessments… for a limited period of time.”

http://www.reginfo.gov/public/do/eAgendaViewRule?pubId=201410&RIN=1810-AB16

“Phasing out the authority of the states” has been precisely the point for every last one of Duncan’s promoted education reforms, from Common Core to Common Data Standards to State Longitudinal Database Systems to P-20 programs to Common Core Assessments to teacher and school evaluations.

It’s been the shared vision of non-governmental education reformers as well, from Marc Tucker to Michael Barber to Linda Darling Hammond to the Center for American Progress.

Utahns Against Common Core have been pointing out this phase-out of local authority for over two years. Others have been saying it for decades.

But fat cats (Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce, School Improvement Network, Prosperity 2020, Education First, Pearson Inc., Microsoft) –each of whom wants to sell fat educational products to the fat, “uniform customer base of Common Core” (as Gates put it) will not listen, and will mock and scorn critics because they want to get fatter and fatter on the taxpayer’s dime.

Why does such a supposedly conservative state allow the educational authority of the state to be “phased out” –because of businesses’ greed and lack of care for our children?  Where are our children’s educational defenders when we need them?  Where is the action behind all the flag-waving speeches that we’ve heard, now, Governor Herbert, Education Advisor Pyfer, Senator Stephenson, Representative Powell?

Why doesn’t our Governor, our legislature, our state school board, lift a finger to fight for our Constitutional right to educational self governance?

I cannot understand the apathy and the complacency and the tolerance– even at the legislative level– of all reforms aligned to the Common Core.

Is it not tragically crazy that we, as a state, willingly allow liberties –guaranteed under the supreme law of the land– to slip so easily out of our lives?  We allow ourselves to be lied to by our leaders, who cradle these education reform lies in positive, appealing language, and only for one reason:  cash flow.   Not for our children, at all.

When will Utah, when will America, wake up to this devastation of liberty and education?

-Christel Swasey

Anti-God Indoctrination in 8th Grade St. George Class

Last week, an 8th grade class in St. George began the day with this excerpt on the board………. Kudos to the student who took these photos and shared them with her mom! Please note this is not Common Core, just the secular humanism religion that is allowed in our public schools.

stgeorge1

stgeorge2

Catch-up Update

Getting ready for the Agency-Based Education conference this weekend has been a big job and made it harder to send out updates but there is a ton that has been happening. If you are not on the UACC Facebook Group, all of these have been posted there in the last week or so. Join now if you want up to date information about what’s happening. This post will need to last you for the next week or so, so just keep returning here and read the next item. The critical ones have a * next to them.

*Dr. Gary Thompson: SAGE/Common Core Tests Break Basic Codes of Test Ethics  (Why SAGE testing is not only harmful but violates ethical standards)

*Gates Is at It Again: The Common Core-Centered “Collaborative for Student Success” (I never thought I’d say this… Thank goodness for the Huffington Post. This article lays it all bare. Read it, share it.)

*Leaked Letter: Utah Teachers’ Evaluations (Pay) Will Depend On Common Core Test Scores in 2015  (Hello and welcome to Common Core’s enforcement mechanism)

*VP of College Board’s AP U. S. History Course Discredited (Gotta love a good takedown)

*Video: NJ Symposium to Stop Common Core: Drs. Stotsky, Tienken, Pesta, Williams, Borelli and Borelli (from a recent conference, watch some great videos here)

States Listen as Parents Give Rampant Testing an F (about standardized testing in Florida)

DOJ grants $63 million for social justice school discipline promoted by Bill Ayers (shocking, I know)

Be “That Parent” (this one will motivate you)

Your children deserve better than this, first-grade teachers tell parents (stop high-stakes testing on little kids)

What missing class in Kindergarten means for high school (There are a variety of reasons children miss school. However, ending compulsory education laws would do more to ensure children were enticed to school, rather than enforcement mechanisms and social programs to make sure children don’t miss.)

Teacher SLAMS SAGE Testing

This is a must read op-ed. Then please send it to your legislators, and state and local school board members. Ask local schools and district boards to stop all use of the SAGE test in your schools except as required by state law. Ask the state board and lawmakers to completely scrap the use of this test and eliminate it from the state. It is child abuse.

You can find your legislator here: http://le.utah.gov/GIS/findDistrict.jsp

Find your local school board members on your district website.

Charter school people should contact their charter schools and tell them to drop the test or you will homeschool or put your child in a school that respects your authority over your child’s education.

Read the op-ed by teacher Debbie Nichols here:

http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865614313/A-teacher7s-opinion-of-the-SAGE-test.html

 

Yet More Election Law Violations in Alpine School District

Unbelievably, more teachers in Alpine School District continue to violate Utah election law and Alpine School District policies (See previous 1, previous 2). At this point, who knows how many schools this is happening in. Highland City Council member Rod Mann posted the below emails which he obtained, to Facebook over the weekend. He gave me permission to reprint his letter which was sent to the Lt. Gov., Utah county clerk, and ASD Superintendent Vern Henshaw. His letters are below these letters from a fourth grade teacher at Meadow elementary showing clear violations of the law.  It seems clear that the principal and other administrators must also support these actions as she wrote the names on the faculty lounge whiteboard for everyone to see. Further, after sending out an email to the rest of the school on the 21st, she continued to send emails on the 28th and 30th. The failure of the principal to stop this action shows she was complicit with the actions of this teacher.

Please contact:

The Lt. Governor’s office, 800-995-VOTE, write him at: http://www.utah.gov/ltgovernor/contact/, spencercox@utah.gov

Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes: (801) 366-0260

Utah County Attorney Jeff Buhman: 801-851-8026

Utah County Clerk Bryan Thompson: bryant@utahcounty.gov

ASD Superintendent Vern Henshaw: vhenshaw@alpinedistrict.org

and ask your ASD board member how such violations of election law and district policy are handled.

Seems to me that this is an institutionalized method for electing rubber stamps to the board. There is only one solution. Enforce the law, and enact partisan school board elections so that locally elected representatives can vet candidates for inclusion on the ballot and not let the establishment run the campaigns of selected candidates using taxpayer dollars.

Please help get out the vote for Wendy Hart, Chris Jolley, and Maynard Olsen tomorrow. They will represent the public interest.

 

dh2

 

 

dh1

 

dh3

Rod Mann’s post from Facebook, used with permission.

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

I am sorry to say that today I saw copies of 3 additional emails that violate ASD policy and state election law. Here is the email I just send to Superintendent Henshaw with copies to the the Lt. Governor and the County Clerk along with pictures of the emails.

“Superintendent Henshaw, Lt. Governor Cox, and County Clerk Thompson

Last week I sent you the note below regarding information that was brought up at the recent school ASD board meeting. Today I am sorry that I became aware of 3 additional emails (see attached files) that were sent out from Alpine District Email addresses to recipients using an Alpine District Email distribution list. They promote a specific set of candidates, an inferred set of candidates, helped to organize a campaign event for a specific candidate and indicated that specific candidate names were posted on a white board in the faculty lounge of a school. I am pretty sure that these are all violations of ASD policy and I am guessing that they are also violations of state election law. You’ll notice that most the content of one of the emails is from the AEA. The problem with this one is that a school employee used an ASD email account to forward this information using an ASD Distribution List.

As I said in the email below I have a separate concern if you first hear of such violations from people outside the district. This would indicate that teachers and staff are either 1) ignorant of district policy and state election laws, or 2) are afraid of directly reporting violations, and/or 3) are willfully violating district policy and election law to ensure that the “right” outcome occurs.

It would appear that you have a serious problem with campaign policy and law in the district. I would hope that these get fixed. Please be aware that regardless of the outcome of the election I will use my best efforts to ensure that legislative policies are enacted that will serve as a more effective deterrent than the current code allows.

I would hope that in the meantime that the district would be more rigorous in informing teachers and staff about ASD policy and state election law and then find a means to deter future violations. I would also hope that the county and state would look into what appears a systemic problem with government resources being used to influence election results. Also, I believe there is a good chance that a hostile work environment exists for those teachers who do not agree with the AEA.

Regards,

Rod Mann

—— Original Message ——
From: “Rod Mann” <mannrw@gmail.com>
To: vhenshaw@alpinedistrict.org
Cc: spencercox@utah.gov; bryant@utahcounty.gov
Sent: 10/28/2014 10:27:23 PM
Subject: Campaign emails using Alpine District Resources

Hello Superintend Henshaw,

I attended the board meeting this evening and just want to share with you my point of view on the emails. The board is clearly divided on some issues and that is not bad. Healthy discussion generally creates better solutions. Reading the recent email from board vice president JoDee Sundberg to district personnel (I’m assuming it was to all principals) and Keith Conley’s (principal of Geneva Elementary School) email indicating to staff and teachers who they should support as well as recounting a teacher/staff meeting where he distributed campaign information, shows the strong personal animus that is being propagated throughout district personnel. This is not healthy discussion.

The emails support a viewpoint that the district has its own agenda and uses tax payer resources to ensure that candidates who support that agenda are elected. I would expect you to be very concerned if the first you heard of the email was through the Internet/Facebook. This would mean that no recipient of either Mrs. Sundberg’s or Mr. Conley’s email and no one who attended the meeting Mr. Conley references had the courage to share this information with you as a violation of district policy and/or state election law. How sad it would be if someone who might have considered reporting this was dissuaded from doing so out of fear of potential repercussions (after all the board vice-president seemingly encouraged the behavior).

The principal not only encouraged his staff and teachers to violate policy, he also broke trust with the community he serves by using his time at work and district resources, paid for by all tax payers, to actively work against some of them — in other words he used the resources of government to try and impose his personal (and Mrs. Sundberg’s) will on those he serves. I understand that the Lt. Governor has spoken with you and that an apology to those Mr. Conley sent the email to will be forth coming. The seems insufficient. If an apology will be written, it should be a public apology to all those whose trust he violated and whose funds he misused. I can’t help but wonder if this is the first time this happened. Is an apology enough to prevent it from happening again? I’m not sure. If I was willing to violate district policy and/or state law to accomplish a mission and I knew that if caught I would simply have to apologize, I doubt I would be deterred from acting.

That a board member would abuse her authority and encourage district personnel to violate district policy and the law is also disturbing. Were I on the board this certainly have diminished my trust in her and might affect my willingness to engage with her. Do you really want a board where open hostility reigns and trust is absent. I don’t envy your challenge.

I would encourage you to not just let this blow over, but to take active and public steps to ensure that there are strong incentives in place to discourage this kind of behavior going forward. That will go a long way to restoring trust.

A quick note on another matter. A city attorney attends all council meetings and most work sessions in Highland (I imagine that most other cities do the same). This allows all council members to directly ask questions and receive an immediate response. I find this practice to be of great value. I would recommend the same for the school board. That would eliminate any perception that the administration is blocking certain board members from obtain legal opinions on matters pertinent to the board.

Regards,

Rod Mann
Highland City resident and city council member

Random Quote

Our goal for the coming year will be to work closely with global partners, including UNESCO, to promote qualitative improvements and system strengthening. — Arne Duncan, http://unesco.usmission.gov/duncan-remarks.html

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