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.

The Toxic Culture of Education by Teacher Joshua Katz

Joshua Katz is a high school teacher in Florida. In April of 2014, he delivered this talk on the Toxic Culture of Education. I was pointed to this yesterday on another site where the below script of his talk was also posted.  It’s not an exact transcript of his talk but if you are a fast reader and prefer that, there it is. :) Please leave a comment about your thoughts on his presentation. I also want to recommend you watch this talk on the Agency Based Education site by another teacher on the subject of “The Future of Education without Coercion.”

 

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” -Albert Einstein

So, there I was, working with a student, Natalie, on solving equations. She had to multiply 2 times 9 and was stuck. No joke, my students get stuck on that. So, I decided to go for the teaching moment. 2 times 9. All she had to do was count by 2, nine times, that was it. She tried and failed three times, on paper and on fingers, in both English and Spanish, her native tongue. THREE TIMES Natalie is 16. In the ninth grade. And she is NOT ALONE. NOT BY A LONG SHOT.

I teach at a high school with a student population of over 3,000. It is only one of over 30,000 high schools in the United States. You have to somehow begin to wrap your head around the enormity of the number of Natalies in our schools, in our country, in our future.

I’ve seen the best of the school system. I can honestly say that our best students can compete with the best students from around the world. In fact, when looking at the data from PISA results that compares our students to other countries we rank in the 20’s, BUT…if we separate it out by district poverty level, and look at the US districts that have comparable poverty rates to the other countries, it is clear that our students are at or near the top in the comparisons. But our highest performing students are only a small percentage of our overall population, even in the honors classes.

But what about the Natalies?

I have specialized in teaching Algebra to the lowest-ranked 25% of high school students, and I work mostly with THOSE students.

The best of THOSE want to do well, but when they finally realize how capable they are, they find themselves either stuck in a path of academic mediocrity or they are so close to graduation that all they need is their credit to pass. It’s a scene of wasted potential.

The worst of THOSE have had no education of character, common decency, appropriate language and behavior, or right from wrong. By high school, they are so ingrained in their behaviors of laziness, disruption, disrespect, and defiance that any measure of guidance is completely lost on them. These are the students on the path of dropping out, of incarceration, and abusing social welfare.

Parents will talk their children into purposefully failing tests so they can qualify for social security benefits, up to $800 per month per child. And these families find other sources of untaxed income, in the way of pharmaceutical sales. There is a LOT of abuse of social welfare, and the parents know how to milk the system for all it’s worth. This abuse is happening when people TRULY in need can’t get the help.

What’s out there waiting for THOSE students? Jobs? College? They are in an educational system that says “if you don’t go to college, you have no worth” so their alternative is to be underemployed, find illegal work, or abuse social security.

THOSE students are marginalized by what I call our “Toxic Culture of Education”. It doesn’t matter if a student is a gifted artist, a loving caretaker, a poetic writer, or a talented musician. THOSE students are the fish being measured on how they climb trees. We say the be all end all is college, or we leave students to the lowest skill level work (which, more and more, is being occupied by college educated people). Even with the honors students, they are, in general, too worried about grades and results, and not interested in true learning, which affects their performance in college. I don’t want to talk about the college student loan debt crisis.

But you have to believe me, I am not placing blame on them, yes they can take credit for who they are, but this is about something much larger than them. Our Toxic Culture began with a classic Super Villain Archetype. Recall any Super Villain, I focus on Syndrome from The Incredibles. The villain’s plan is to unleash a doom onto the world, and the villain is the only one that can stop it. Thus gaining all the desired power.

This is exactly what began before the 1980’s and culminated in No Child Left Behind. Private companies realized they could utilize the education system (at the time a $750 billion industry) to create a nearly endless stream of taxpayer funds. They channeled millions of dollars into lobbying efforts in order to create two buzzwords that put everything in its place: “Accountability” and “Rigor”. State statutes were passes, district rules were put into place, and No Child Left Behind was finally passed. But don’t get me wrong about politics, these efforts were underway long before they were passed, and both parties can take full credit for their disastrous results.

They decided to take the education system that produced the individuals, that put a man on the moon with technology less powerful than the phone in my pocket, and paint a picture of “failure” using the word “accountability”. You see, we only have one way to address accountability: Standardized Testing. So, we implement standardized testing, and it shows that schools are failing, teachers are failing, and students are failing. And when everything is failing, guess what we need? We need new textbooks, we need new resources, we need new training, we need charter schools, we need private schools. And who creates all these things we need? Private businesses. The only way to feed the business model in our Toxic Culture is to perpetuate the picture of failure. In fact, I’d LOVE to see any education company that has a business model that is built upon success. There is no money in student success.

How can we possibly believe standardized testing accurately measures student achievement? How can it measure student growth? How can it measure that “a-ha” moment when a student’s light is finally lit? That moment when a student says “thank you” for helping him graduate with a 2.0 GPA? That moment when a student athlete works hard in study hall and finally gets a C in her class because her coach helped? How can we attach a number to that moment when a 5th grader finally has the ability to write his own name (who is labeled a failure for himself, his teacher, AND his school)? But we crave education standardization, we believe we need high stakes testing, and we eat up misinformation provided by companies using test results with no validity.

Our testing culture begins in elementary school. Colleagues of mine deal with third graders who are suffering from anxiety for standardized testing. From a one-day, 4 hour, computer-based test, the future path of the student is set, the academic identity is established, and the message is delivered loud and clear: either you CAN make it, or you CAN’T make it. No matter what the teacher tells them about how good they are or what talents they have, if they don’t score well on that test, they know what it means. They define themselves. In the third grade. It’s starting to happen in kindergarten.

So these students continue testing, continue failing, and the districts continue new initiatives that can solve the problem. Who makes these products? Who has these solutions? Our super villain. Companies like Pearson and McGraw Hill which operate on legislation and policy written by private lobbying groups like ALEC. Buy the next textbook, the next workbook, the next software package. I’ve been through four Algebra textbooks in seven years. And that’s where the schools and districts are spending all the money. And we stick to the standardized test (guess who makes those?).

We illogically attempt to compare education to business, we ignore the impact of poverty and hunger, we pay no attention the non cognitive factors that are realistic predictors and measures of student success, and that way, we can place the blame on the teachers and schools. And because we have a Toxic Culture of Education, policies, teachers, and schools have accepted accountability for students, including all THOSE students. We take the blame for a student that has no moral compass. We take the blame for a student that cannot focus because he hasn’t eaten since yesterday’s lunch. We take the blame for a student that cannot stay awake in class because she spends her nights on a different couch, depending on which friend takes her in. When those students don’t “score well”, we get blamed. And we take it. We accept it. Because we love the kids. We are the only ones protecting them from this Toxic Culture of Education.

And what do we do as a system? Our only interest in education “reform” is to create policies that include additional standardized testing, to place higher stresses on teachers and students, and continue the picture of failure so private companies can sell the answer. And all this ignores highly publicized and easily available data on effective policy-making and effective practices. And it’s about to get worse. The Common Core will do more damage its high-stakes test (not to mention its myopic standards masked in a guise of “critical thinking” which is just developmentally inappropriate “rote”. I see my daughter’s work in the first grade. They ain’t fooling me). Any education reform that does not address high stakes testing and the non-cognitive factors of true student achievement, like character and personal habits, is a waste of time and it kills our kids.

Our main focus is on the schools, on the teachers, on the curriculum. We need to start paying attention to our students. If a student fails Algebra 1 in the ninth grade, chances are it is not because they do not understand the material. Chances are it’s not because the teacher isn’t teaching. Chances are it’s not because of the school. Chances are it is because the student lacks some type of intangible characteristic (a “Non-Cognitive Behavior”) that enables them to succeed. Things like persistence, initiative, social skills, common sense, a full belly, or a good night’s sleep. However, none of these things are considered in our definition of “student achievement”. None of these things are considered in our policies.

All the talk about failing schools and failing teachers and how to improve teachers and improve schools NEEDS to be changed to failing students and how to improve students. How can we help them to be better students? How can we help them to be better people? How can we help them with these Non-Cognitive factors like integrity and work ethic? How can we feed them? Give them a place to sleep? It’s the public narrative that needs to be shifted. We have to discuss what is happening with our students, even the Honors students. Because right now we are simply creating a massive population of future citizens who are afraid to attempt anything challenging, unable to read or think critically, or unable to find ways to earn a meaningful income, and I’ll get to that in a minute.

Right now, our system pushes ALL students to study abstract classes in order to be “college ready”. We throw around buzzwords like “rigor” and “STEM”. It sounds good, right?

The reality is that the word “rigor” has completely replaced the word “relevant”. I met with our district and pitched an idea to bring back Home Economics, but this time as a math credit. First words in the response: “it’s not rigorous”. So, forget relevance. Forget teaching students about measurements, about taxes and discounts, about loans, about debt, event planning, or the reality of fractions. It’s not as rigorous as Factoring Trinomials and Graphing Logarithms, so it can’t fit. There’s no room for it in our Toxic Culture of Education. There’s also no room for the arts and for imagination, which are being systematically removed from schools. There is no profit in that, either.

We have felt the effects of our education policies. There are thousands of highly skilled jobs that are currently vacant. There is opportunity for small business development and innovation like never before. And we are relying on highly skilled immigrants. But where are our graduates?

There is an ENORMOUS opportunity in our economy for our students, but we just don’t enable it in our schools because we are focusing on “college ready” and “rigor”.

If we focus our attention on getting students the resources they need in order to find their place in the community, the economy, THOSE students would value education more highly, use their time more wisely, and make better decisions outside of school. Let’s keep the college bound students going to college. They need to continue their path, but we need them to be more successful and more innovative. But what about THOSE students?

I have students that want to be tattoo artists, mechanics, and barbers. They want work, some want to open their own businesses. But..they are THOSE students. They consistently fail classes and get themselves in trouble in school, and may not graduate. So I say: let’s scrap Algebra for them and teach them some tangible skills (like we did in the system before it was labeled as a “failure”). Let’s get them out there making a living for themselves, rather than spending another $10,000 in tax money to pay for another year of school for them to learn how to factor trinomials, which they won’t. Why Not get them into the economy?

How do we address this on a large scale? I believe in Horace Mann’s 1850’s vision of an education system that can improve mankind. In public education, we have an amazing opportunity to mold a better future. What we are currently doing is so toxic and I have two solutions that would be better. I’m not a fan of this idea, but it would be better than what is happening now: we could completely defund public education and put the 750 billion dollars back in our pockets. No more taxpayer money going to private companies in the name of public education and on the heads of our students. Because let me tell you, it isn’t reaching our classrooms and students and it’s certainly not reaching the teachers. The second plan, which I am in support of, is to double down on public education. Eliminate the toxic policies and the corruption in profit flow. Get the money more directly to the students. Allow them to be successful, focus on them, on their non-cognitive factors, on their abilities. Train and allow the teachers to work with their students and assess their students on what they truly need to know: thinking, reasoning, and learning. I believe in the potential greatness of a public education system DONE RIGHT. In fact, most of my colleagues do as well.

Speaking of my colleagues…what about all the talk about teachers? The public narrative, thanks to “education reformers” like Michelle Rhee and Bill Gates, paints a picture that our schools are teeming with horrible teachers. Most teachers are accomplishing amazing feats of human achievement and motivation with their students. What teachers are able to accomplish is being done in a “professional” environment of questioning, belittling, and self doubt due to “accountability” measures for ALL teachers because “teachers can’t be fired”. If you want to compare education to business, check out HR and employee relations. Companies empower employees, encourage employee growth, believe in employee morale, and reward employee success. Yet in our toxic culture, we call a teacher “successful” IF AND ONLY IF students can score well on a 4 hour computer based test. We evaluate teachers based on what is written on their boards or hung up on their walls, or spotted by an administrator with an iPad in a three minute observation. We blame teachers for students who are hungry, homeless, without guidance, or without character. I don’t even need to mention teacher pay. You cannot measure how successful a teacher truly is in the life of a student! How do you measure when a teacher acts as mental health counselor for a student that has suffered a family loss? How do you measure when a student is able to eat dinner only because a teacher is paying for it? How do you measure a student learning something new based on immediate feedback from an assignment because the teacher stayed up until midnight the night before grading papers? How do you measure when a teacher spends thousands of dollars of their own money to have supplies in their classrooms? And we blame the teachers for accountability policies they had no place in creating.

Why not develop a system that invests in the teachers’ relationship with the students? Why not invest directly in the students? Why not encourage teachers to create their own assessment systems to fit their students’ needs? Why not allow them to collaborate with one another or at least have a peer review system to better serve their students (like in other professions)? Why not involve them in the policy making decisions at the school level, the district level, the state level, the national level?

The truth about education policy is that it is written and enforced by people who have either spent little or no time in the classroom with the students that these very policies affect. Why not allow the individuals in direct contact with students to mold and shape the environment of the students? Education is the only industry that is developing a product without any valid market research from its users! Students aren’t asked what they want or need. Teachers aren’t asked what would work for their students. Teachers are not the enemy: it’s the private companies like Pearson and interest groups like ALEC, that write policies and laws that are passed over steak dinners with words like “accountability” and “rigor” to perpetuate their bottom lines on the heads of our students. Follow the money: of all the tax dollars that go into education, how much goes directly to students? How much goes directly to a teacher’s relationship with students (which by the way are another leading indicator of student success)? Compare that to how much goes to private companies for materials and resources, as well as bureaucracy? Just follow the money.

We must change the public narrative on education. We must fight our Toxic Culture! We must end high stakes testing for the sake of “accountability”. Let’s have education policy that builds up our students with sensible human standards instead of fitting them into robotic boxes for “college readiness”. Let’s focus on getting students out there in the evolving global economy. Let’s focus on teaching them the important things: how to read, how to think, how to research, how to reason, how to master basic skills, and how to be good citizens. Let’s talk about the Non-Cognitive factors that are the true measures of student achievement: persistence, integrity, character.

Let’s teach them how to learn and how to innovate, NOT how to take tests. We must change the focus of our Toxic Culture away from curriculum, teachers, and schools, and WE MUST focus on our students!

Let’s stop measuring fish by how well they climb trees.

T-shirt Design Contest

Submit your own original t-shirt design and we’ll post it in our Facebook T-shirt design contest. The t-shirt designs with the most “likes” will be printed and distributed for active citizens like yourself to wear at political events, and show support and unity for local control of education. The winners will receive a free T-shirt printed with their winning design.

What you should know:

  1. Your submissions must be submitted by Tuesday July 29, 11:59 pm to qualify.
  2. Voting will begin on Wednesday morning and will end at Noon on Thursday.
  3. Submit a design for both the front and the back of the shirt.  Please label these, front or back, in the filename of your submission.
  4. The winning designs will be printed on a GREEN shirt, please coordinate your colors to match.

    The color of the green t-shirt

    The color of the green t-shirt.

  5. Submit your design without the green background of the shirt showing. The green background portion of your design should be transparent so it is ready to send to the printer. (Jpeg files do not support a transparent background.)
    Example of a Bad Submission

    Example of a Bad Submission

    Example of a Good Submission

    Example of a Good Submission

  6. We will add a green background to your design so voters can see what it will look like on the shirt.
    You will submit this.

    You will submit this.

    We will add the green background so the voters will see this.

    We will add the green background so this is what the voters will see on Facebook.

  7. Your design must promote the values of Utahns Against Common Core. Any designs that do not reflect our values or mission, are irrelevant to the purpose of this contest, or are not submitted according to the directions listed on this website will be disqualified.
  8. By submitting your design you are donating the design and all rights and privileges pertaining to it, intellectual or otherwise, to Utahns Against Common Core and you agree to the terms and conditions listed on this website. This includes the right to edit your design.
  9. It is your responsibility to make sure you use your own original design, and not steal the intellectual work of others.
  10. Please submit your design as an attachment to morgan@olsen.org. Include your Full Name, Mailing Address, Email address and Phone number in the body of the email. Make sure the file names of your submission state whether it is the front or back of the shirt.

 

 

The T-shirt Design Contest is up NOW! Look through this Facebook photo album and like your favorite designs. The Design with the most likes by Noon, Thursday, July 31st will be printed and distributed.

How AIR wants to use big-data on our children

http://www.air.org/resource/long-story-short-how-are-rules-using-big-data-changing

Watch this video of Julia Lane, Institute Fellow at American Institutes for Research (AIR)—Utah’s testing agent for SAGE tests. The following are excerpts of some of her quotes, with my translations:

“It’s impossible to get informed consent about collecting big-data.”
… (TRANSLATION-”We can’t wait for you, the parent, to understand our need to collect your child’s data. We’ll need to change public policies at the federal and state level without your consent. We can unilaterally do this by lobbying legislators to stomp out your parental rights.”)

“Google knows where you are every single minute of the day”
… (TRANSLATION-”We couldn’t let Google have a monopoly over big-data, so we partnered with them in 2012. Now, we can drill down on what your child is doing and thinking. Luckily, your child will be using Google Chromebooks soon to learn and take SAGE tests. Once we get every child on a one-to-one device, we can continuously assess your child’s skills through the technology without them having to take a formal test—or be at school!”)

“The private sector has been using the data to make a lot of money.”
… (TRANSLATION-”We deserve to make obscene amounts of money, too, by tracking your child’s thinking patterns from PreK to Workforce. Then, we can manipulate their education data to spread the wealth right back into our coffers.”)

“In the public sector, we tend not to use those data.”
… (TRANSLATION-”We don’t see a need to follow ethical rules anymore. Everybody else is collecting big-data. We deserve big-data on your child! Your natural right to direct your child’s learning is getting in the way of US doing it. We deserve to control their learning!”)

“The good that is being lost is incalculably high.”
… (TRANSLATION-”We can’t save your child because you won’t let us track their personal learning. We must be able to track what they think from PreK to Workforce—for the good of the collective.”)

“The rules that exist are no longer clear and are probably no longer applicable.”
… (TRANSLATION-”We don’t think federal or state privacy laws are fair. We will unilaterally decide how Utah’s state policies will be changed so that we can track your child’s personal learning styles, beliefs, and behaviors. It’s for the good of the collective, of course!”)

Why I love computer adaptive testing

Short post by Jared Carman who helps articulate our position on computer adaptive testing.

————————

OK, I don’t love them. But I don’t hate them either. The problem with the SAGE tests is not the technology. It’s that the technology is being used by Big Business, Big Government, and Big Philanthropy to marginalize and usurp parental authority in education

Parents have the natural, and Constitutionally-protected primary role to direct the education of their own children. SAGE tests are a powerful cog in the centralized education machine: SAGE content is based on standards created by the CCSSO and the NGA; SAGE technology and databases are owned by AIR, a proud arm of UNESCO; and the whole centralized education movement is driven by USDE mandates/incentives/waivers.

We need to re-discover the “genius of small.” If vegetables and fruits are better grown locally, so are our children’s minds and hearts.

With the SAGE tests, 99.99% of Utah parents are locked out of SAGE test question development and review. After hours and hours of testing, every child finishes with a grade of 50%. Databases are filled with student data, visible to AIR and to the education elites, but parents are never given feedback in any useful form. The tests serve no purpose for students or parents, and exist only to serve the goals of whoever controls the centralized education machine.

A nail gun is a powerful tool that makes building houses very efficient. But a nail gun in the hands of a small child is unthinkable. Likewise, computer adaptive testing, and associated data gathering, are extremely powerful tools, that can help make learning more efficient. But allowing politicians and social engineers to wield these tools, in shaping our children’s minds and hearts, is unthinkable.

I am my kids’ dad, and I OPPOSE the SAGE tests.

Jared Carman

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

Copyright © 2011. All Rights Reserved.

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