Category Archives: Answering Charges

SAGE Validity Part 2: Dr. Thompson Responds

After sharing what Alpine school district board member’s Brian Halladay and Wendy Hart wrote concerning the results of the validity test Florida performed on Utah’s SAGE test, Dave Thomas, a state school board member wrote several legislators a brief rebuttal. He stated:

I read the Independent Verification of the Psychometric Validity for the Florida Standards Assessment, Evaluation of FSA Final Report (Alpine Testing Solutions, August 2015) and came to an entirely opposite conclusion. The report expressly validated the SAGE test (see Conclusions 1,2,5, and 6).  The problems noted in the report (see Conclusions 4, 7, and pp. 77-103) were not the result of an invalid SAGE test, but rather these had to do with Florida’s administration of the test (technology problems, login issues, head phone issues, insufficient training of the proctors, and late delivery of materials) and the fact that SAGE is aligned to the Utah Core Standards and not to the Florida standards (pp. 47-48).  While the two sets of standards are similar, the Report notes that there are differences which make SAGE not fully aligned to the Florida standards.  For example, Florida uses Algebra I, Geometry and Algebra II, while Utah uses an integrated math model.  Such differences present problems for the long term use of the SAGE test in Florida.  Consequently, the Report rightly recommends that Florida get their own test.  This discussion about misalignment is the reason I have long discouraged reliance upon NAEP, which uses its own standards to compile its test; standards that are not aligned with Utah.

I would highly recommend reading the Conclusions to the Report (pp. 118-121)..   I would caution all policy makers to be careful about focusing on isolated comments in a 150+ page Report which may be taken out of context.

David L. Thomas

In response to Mr. Thomas’ statement, Dr. Gary Thompson wrote the following rebuttal.

Vice-Chair Thomas’s response…failed to answer many important issues vital to the economic, educational, financial, and moral health of our community.   His non-response was a attempt to get stakeholders in education to focus on irrelevant “trees” at the expense of the “forest” comprised of our children.    That is unacceptable to me as citizen, father, and local clinical community scientist.

This blog post is about the “forest”:

1.  What exactly IS validity?  (See below)

2.  Did the Utah SAGE test undergo a validity study? (No. See below) 

3.  How important are validity issues in educational testing to your children? (Extremely.  See below)

4.  Will the next 9 pages be the most important education information considered for parents of Utah and Florida’s “divergent learning” students?  (Probably.  See below)

To continue, reading Dr. Thompson’s expert analysis, please go directly to his article here:

The Test Validity Trojan Horse: Utah and Florida’s Dangerous Game of Education Poker With Our Public School Children


The arguments against partisan elections – SB 104 S2

SB 104 is the education elections and reporting amendments bill, also known as the “partisan elections” bill. Today the senate voted 21-7-1 on it’s second reading to pass it. I believe it’ll still have a third reading and another vote but those votes shouldn’t change significantly. It has been amended so that local districts only do partisan elections if the student population in the district exceeds 20,000.

In short, this is the only way to have school board elections be fair and transparent to the voting public. Otherwise we have the 1-party education establishment campaigning for their choice of candidate and telling everyone how it’s unfair that they have competition to who they deem the best candidate.

Today, the Utah School Boards Association (USBA) sent out an email to all school board members, superintendents, business officials and education leaders around the state giving them their talking points to oppose this bill. Here is their email with my comments in-between segments.

This bill will either create the need to make a Constitutional change or will create a lawsuit as Article X, Section 8 of the Utah Constitution indicates that “No religious or partisan test or qualification shall be required as a condition of employment, admission, or attendance in the state’s education systems.”  This is read to include both state and local school board members.  It appears clear that Utah’s founding leaders intended NOT to have partisan politics influence their public education system.

The public in Utah is not likely to make a Constitutional change related to partisan politics in public education oversight and governance.

This item is ridiculous. This is merely saying we can’t put a litmus test on a particular office such as “only Mormons or members of the Democratic Party can hold that position.” It’s why the Framers put similar language into the U.S. Constitution, which reads: “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”  Partisan elections ARE LEGAL and used in a majority of political races in Utah in order to closely vet candidates for office.

Local school board candidates are well known by their constituents, both in rural and in urban Utah.  Local school board candidates often walk door to door to talk with each constituent.  They do not need further vetting by a narrow group of party delegates.

Well known? A school board member runs every 4 years by putting up yard signs and walking the streets asking people to vote for him/her. Sometimes they pass out a flier with their talking points. Attendance at school board meetings is pathetic. Nobody is watching candidates and an extremely small number know anything about the candidates, even just their name! Vetting by a representative sample of every neighborhood in an area is both logical and logistical. When a neighborhood gets together at a caucus meeting and elects people to speak with candidates, they are picking people JUST LIKE THEMSELVES to go ask questions that get beyond the sound bites candidates deliver on fliers and their websites. This is grass roots involvement at its best.

Can you imagine a parent who wants non-partisan elections for school board members, actually spending even 15 minutes with each of 6 school board candidates to try and contact and vet each of them and make an intelligent vote in a primary race to reduce the field? It isn’t going to happen among the masses.

The bill creates a vacuum for many patrons of the district who may not be affiliated with a party.  School board members will largely be held accountable to their delegates that elected them, leaving parents and taxpayers from other views to feel as if on the fringes.  This is less representation, not more.  School board members should be accountable to all members of the taxpaying public and all parents.

Depending on where one lives, there may be a majority of people from one political party. Other areas will flip that or be more balanced. Every party should run candidates that stand for their principles and the members of those parties should vet the candidates to see who has the best ideas so they put their very best candidate forward.

Party delegates are not viewed by the majority of Utahns as representative of their views on many matters, as has been shown most recently by the Count My Vote initiative.

The Buy My Vote initiative is hardly representative of an informed populace.

Delegates may or may not know much about their public schools.  Volunteers and other school community leaders are often in public schools and are much more helpful in vetting candidates for local school board races.  This undoubtedly holds true for state board candidates as well.

Dear USBA, delegates are our neighbors. They have families. They have children in school. They volunteer in schools. They are not from Mars or Venus. When someone is elected as a delegate, it’s a neighbor who we trust to make good decisions after weighing ALL the facts obtained from candidates and their opponents. This holds true for both local and state delegates.

Direct, nonpartisan school board races for local and state races, is already constitutional and restores the voice of the people to this electoral process.

NEWS FLASH: PARTISAN RACE ARE CONSTITUTIONAL. They actually get used quite often in Utah and it’s a big part of what made this the “best run state” in the nation. Non-partisan races never have, and never will “restore the voice of the people.” They are the races that special interests dominate because there is nobody to vet the candidates so their money goes to the “beauty contest” where whoever has the most advertising and “it’s for the children” sound bites wins with the help of the single-party education establishment. Through their channels, they get the word out through the school system as to who to vote for. Non-partisan races only work in small areas. Certainly not in areas where a candidate might not even live in your city.

For those who have further questions or concerns about partisan races, I invite you to read these pages:

Action Item: Email your senator and representative and ask them to vote FOR SB 104, education elections and reporting amendments. Get their email addresses from:

Bill Schmidt Argues that CC Math is Two Years Behind

How do Common Core math standards compare to high achieving nations? We can look at “Benchmarking for Success,” a late 2008 clarion call for Common Core by NGA/CCSSO/Achieve.

There, on page, 24, when it describes “Rigor” it says:

Rigor. By the eighth grade, students in top-performing nations are studying algebra and geometry, while in the U.S., most eighth-grade math courses focus on arithmetic. In science, American eighth-graders are memorizing the parts of the eye, while students in top-performing nations are learning about how the eye actually works by capturing photons that are translated into images by the brain. In fact, the curriculum studied by the typical American eighth-grader is two full years behind the curriculum being studied by eighth-graders in high-performing countries.” (added emphasis)

This, in turn, cites an editorial-style 2005 piece by Bill Schmidt (one of the CC math standards authors) in the AFT’s American Educator (here):

“By the middle grades, the top achieving countries do not intend that children should continue to study basic computation skills. Rather, they begin the transition to the study of algebra, including linear equations and functions, geometry and, in some cases, basic trigonometry. By the end of eighth grade, children in these countries have mostly completed mathematics equivalent to U.S. high school courses in algebra I and geometry. By contrast, most U.S. students are destined for the most part to continue the study of arithmetic. In fact, we estimate that, at the end of eighth grade, U.S. students are some two or more years behind their counterparts around the world.” (added emphasis)

In other words, Bill Schmidt himself argues that by the end of grade 8 students in high achieving countries cover both Algebra 1 and Geometry, leaving grade 9 to Algebra 2. Contrast that with Common Core that expects Algebra 1 completion in grade 9 for students that don’t accelerate with extra work. In contrast, in the last decade, California, which benchmarked its standards to be six months behind the high achieving nations, tripled the number of students proficient in algebra 1 by 8th grade, and was actually a 5-6x increase for low-socio economic students and minorities. A stunning achievement which should be the model math standards Utah adopts. No need to enter “honors” programs at an early age. No need to double up on classes or take summer coursework. Just the standard path for students. Details here.

Utah’s integrated math is not the same as other nations

There is a lot of confusion in Utah when the state office of education says they adopted the “integrated” math method in order to be like the high achieving nations of the world, and then learns just how different Common Core and the integrated method are.

With permission I am reprinting this email from Ze’ev Wurman.  Between 2007 and 2009, Ze’ev served as senior policy adviser in the office of Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development, in the U.S. Department of Education. He has been involved in numerous standards reviews and understands the issues of Common Core and its failure to match up to high achieving nations standards.

This is Ze’ev’s explanation of integrated math as it exists in other high achieving countries.


First, I need to explain that what we call “integrated math” in the US is not at all like any math, “integrated” or not, they practice overseas. This is important because people peddling integrated math here claim that “this is what high achievers do overseas,” particularly for middle/high grades (7-9 there, 9-11 here).

What countries like Japan or Singapore do, is they spend a large part of the year (a semester, perhaps two trimesters) on teaching, say, algebra, and then they spend another large chunk (a semester or a trimester) on teaching, say, geometry. This way, the integrity and cohesion of the subject matter is preserved.  Prerequisites are taught before they are needed, and generally things progress logically and hierarchically. Similarly, the geometry (or probability in higher grades) are mostly self-contained and may rely on what has been taught during the algebra period for the necessary prerequisite skills where needed. To Americans, used to teaching a full year of either algebra or geometry (those Carnegie Units still drive us!) this may seem “integrated.” Incidentally, in some instances there is even a separate teacher who teaches the algebra part of the year, versus another one who steps in to teach the geometry part.

But the American integrated program — and I am unaware of any exception — look very different. They are essentially programs that intermix the teaching of disparate content within the same units, or at most across short (4-6 weeks) units. The first type is often known as a Problem-Based Curriculum (or instruction) and works like this (think Connected or Investigations math): a “big” problem is posed that has multiple elements — geometry, calculations, perhaps a bit of graphing and/or algebra, perhaps a bit of probability or estimation. Then the class approaches the problem and as it “peels” it like an onion, the teacher is supposed to teach the kids the required knowledge as it becomes necessary. The idea behind it is that such problem-based instruction will offer a meaningful reason and  justification to the students for the mathematical learning, rather than be taught as an “isolated skill” or “artificial (i.e., boring) non-real-life” problem. Unfortunately, it is essentially impossible to build a coherent curriculum around such large problems, because their needs for particular knowledge and skills do not follow any hierarchical and coherent progression. So you may need a bit about calculating a perimeter of complex figures, mixed with a bit about factorization and prime numbers (if the problem requires whole numbers as an answer) with some graphing thrown in. The result is that kids don’t develop knowledge and skills in a systematic and thoughtful manner, but rather learn disjointed bits and pieces of knowledge that rarely make sense or last for a long time. Integrated programs that are NOT problem-based have a different issue — they essentially interleave short units of different sub-disciplines, so teachers cannot build a solid base of the discipline’s body of knowledge, terms, and practices, before the class moves onto another sub-discipline that has a different set of terms and conventions. Again, think of the conventions in algebra versus geometry versus probability and stats. Consequently, no solid base of any discipline is developed because not enough time is spent to allow the student to internalize it over a lengthy period of time.

I am attaching a chart I collected from the 15 years of STAR administration. STAR offered both the course-based path through HS math, as well as an “integrated” one, and it had two separate sets of assessments for each path (same items, but partitioned differently across the years). As you can see, in the beginning about 25% of students were in integrated math in California. By 2013 there were fewer that 1.5% taking integrated. Nobody forced the school districts to abandon integrated — they just saw for themselves that kids in course-based math do much better, so they abandoned integrated in droves.

But nobody is paying attention to history :-)



(Click image for larger size – also see this article for the dramatic success of the CA standards)


CA STAR Exam results



A Reply to Superintendent Menlove

The State Superintendent recently responded to someone who had concerns about Common Core with this email:


Mrs. ______,

I understand you and others do not like Common Core.

Can you help me understand what you think our standards should be.  Should we have standards?  Do you think our standards should align with tests our children will take to determine college entrance and scholarship opportunities?  Do you think our standards should align with what the Utah System of Higher Education has determined our student need to be successful in college in Utah?   Which specific standards would you eliminate or change?  What standards are missing and need to be added?

I invite you and others concerned with Common Core to be part of the solution.

Martell Menlove


I’d like to respond to the Superintendent line by line to make sure I address each of these points.

Dr. Menlove,

>I understand you and others do not like Common Core.

Good start establishing common ground.

>Can you help me understand what you think our standards should be.

Certainly. They should be strong standards on par with what the best states in the country were using before Common Core. In fact, our Utah 2007 math standards were better than Common Core so I’d suggest we return to those or else consider using CA’s, MA’s, or IN’s pre-Common Core math standards which have been recognized as exceeding Common Core. Our Utah ELA standards weren’t great according to the Fordham Foundation, but Massachusetts had some great standards that Sandra Stotsky helped create. Did you know she volunteered to come to Utah for free and help us write the best standards in the country with the help and input of Utah teachers? That’s what I’d suggest we do for ELA. This combo would give Utah children a real advantage and we would actually have a Utah core that wasn’t a relabeling of Common Core.

>Should we have standards?

Is this meant to be thought-provoking or just an expression of frustration that a growing segment of the public is feeling disenfranchised and complaining to our public education leaders? Standards are important. Standardizing all students on the same standards at the same pace is destructive. If you’d like more information on this, please watch Sir Ken Robinson’s just released TED video on the problems of No Child Left Behind.

>Do you think our standards should align with tests our children will take to determine college entrance and scholarship opportunities?

What was wrong with the ACT, SAT and AP exams before they were being aligned(ACT, SAT and AP) to Common Core? Nobody complained about them not being aligned to our standards. Why start now? It just becomes a graduation test instead of a test of broader knowledge. If a student graduates from high school and gets A’s on their Common Core aligned computer adaptive tests, why do we even need the ACT, SAT, and AP exams? They’d be redundant and make students sit through the same exam content questions.

>Do you think our standards should align with what the Utah System of Higher Education has determined our student need to be successful in college in Utah?

To my knowledge, the USHE didn’t participate in the creation of Common Core. However, USHE professors did participate in the creation of our 2007 math standards. Why are you rejecting the work they did on the 2007 math standards in favor of what out-of-state special interests created in order to profit their companies?

>Which specific standards would you eliminate or change?

I’m hoping you can see the wisdom of not picking flecks of manure from chocolate chip cookies. The batch is tainted and it’s time for a batch made from fresh ingredients.

>What standards are missing and need to be added?

Dr. Menlove, what standards were missing in our 2007 math standards that needed to be added? Perhaps it was the ones the external reviewer Dr. Hung-Hsi Wu from Berkeley said needed to be modified that the USOE refused to fix to give us A rated standards. Still, we wound up with A- rated standards that the Fordham Foundation said are actually clearer than Common Core. So why did we need to change? Oh yeah, the feds offered us money if we’d switch and then didn’t give us any money when we complied. I guess that’s what happens when you gamble with the dealer…

>I invite you and others concerned with Common Core to be part of the solution.

We’ve actually given you a solution. Why do you resist higher standards for Utah children? Aren’t our children deserving of the very best education? With the rest of the country following mediocre standards, why do you not want Utah children to have the advantage of a better education? Why do you not listen to your constituents solutions? Wasn’t the state board who appointed you, also elected as watchdogs for the public? Why don’t they listen to the public? With 65.5% of GOP state delegates getting informed about Common Core and rejecting it, what is your plan to listen to the people and act on their solutions? Why is your solution for the public to just accept whatever you and the USOE decide is best for our children? That’s not an acceptable solution from a public servant.

Oak Norton


Setting the record straight – a rebuttal to Joel Coleman’s post

[Quick note by Oak Norton: Before presenting Lisa Cummin’s rebuttal to State School Board Member Joel Coleman’s article, I wanted to comment that Joel and I have known each other for some time. He’s well aware of my efforts with others in 2007 to raise Utah’s math standards and the success we had going from D rated standards to an A- (according to the Fordham Foundation ratings). For Joel to publish that opponents of Common Core are “people who don’t want any standards at all” is a shocking misrepresentation. I cannot understand how he could possibly make this statement when he knows we have always been for stronger statements and considered the Common Core standards mediocre. He knows better and should immediately apologize for this clear misrepresentation. Please read Lisa Cummin’s excellent response below.]

Originally posted at:

Yesterday, Utah State School Board member, Joel Coleman, wrote a blog post about the Common Core Standards and where he thinks the mis-understandings lie.

In his opening paragraph he says: “it has become increasingly apparent to me that some of the strongest opponents of Utah’s core standards are people who don’t want any standards at all. Some of them have children that don’t even attend public schools, and therefore are not subject to the standards we are required to implement, anyway.”

Joel, allow me to correct you. We do want standards. We have standards, both in the religious aspects of our lives as well as in our homes with our children. It’s how we know we are progressing towards our goals. In the 1828 Noah Webster’s dictionary definition #3 for “standard” states: “That which is established as a rule or model, by the authority of public opinion, or by respectable opinions, or by custom or general consent; as writings which are admitted to be the standard of style and taste. Homer’s Illiad is the standard of heroic poetry. Demosthenes and Cicero are standards of oratory. Of modern eloquence, we have an excellent stand in the speeches of Lord Chatham. Addison’s writings furnish a good standard of pure, chaste and elegant English style. It is not an easy thing to erect a standard of taste.”

Standards define a moral and chaste people; of course we want standards. Do not attempt to belittle us to the public on this.

It is true that some of us have pulled our children out of public and charter schools. That is our right, as parents to do so and should not be looked down upon. But there are two other points that Joel neglects to mention. Speaking for myself, I pulled my children out of public school because of Common Core, as a whole, not just the standards. I am not a standards expert. However, I have been taught that you don’t phase out the classics as you get older, you must encourage others to read them more! I also know that introducing classics as abridged or in parts, is not teaching the classics, it’s taking out the most important details that builds the emotion or passion of the story. Both points which David Coleman, noted author of the ELA standards and current President of the College Board, absolutely abhors and find unnecessary for learning. Dr. Sandra Stotsky (a standards expert) would not sign off on the English Language Standards because they do not meet college and university level required reading. Phasing them out to 30%, in 12th grade is horrible to the development of children, even through their teen years!

The second note is that we as homeschoolers will be subject to the “standards” as homeschool publishing companies are aligning their curriculum with the standards (including Saxon and Singapore Math, Excellence in Writing and others), as well as the college entrance exams will most likely provide low scores from our children’s testing. So again, please don’t belittle the effect it will have on homeschooling.

In Joel’s comments, he stated that the Common Core Standards were required by law to be adopted which, is simply not true. In fact you can hear the audio of the Board, on August 6th 2010, saying that they are the ones adopting the Common Core, not the State legislature. State legislatures were not involved with the Standards themselves and in fact didn’t become involved until they started passing laws regarding grading of schools, computer adaptive testing, data collecting, and anything else involving exchange of monies. Now No Child Left Behind is a law, but that is a Federal law, not a state.

Mr. Coleman mentions that the explanations in his post where sent to him; that he is not the original author, I’d like to know his sources, as these should be transparent.

Continuing from his post we find: “The purpose of Utah’s core standards is not to drive everyone to achieve the same specific goals for each student, or for them to achieve at the same pace. It is not designed to promote sameness.” Question: If the students don’t achieve the goal of the teacher, school district or State Board, who fails? According to current law, SB 271, it is the teacher and eventually the school.

In continuing my research, I found Senator Neiderhauser’s, current sitting President of the Senate, blog post on “The Senate Site” B 59 will change that definition so that a school’s grade is based on more tangible benchmarks.”

SB271 is the Amended portion to SB59.

It is based on tangible benchmarks or standards. It is a system of one size fits all, or the teachers and the schools will fail. They are tied together. Bad standards will lead to bad assessments. Bad assessments will drive bad curriculum. Bad curriculum will drive the students to test below college and university levels, which mean the teachers and the schools will receive an “F” or worse. This is not just about standards. The picture is much bigger than that, and the State knows it.

Mr. Colman shared his blog post on his Facebook page, and I found Senator Moss’s response rather interesting:

“Carol Spackman Moss: Thank you for the post, Joel. You are exactly right! The CCSS do not limit students, they set standards that allow students and teachers to have some idea what they should aiming for. It doesn’t set curriculum or teaching style. I’m frustrated with the fear mongering and the insistence by some that these standards will have deleterious effects on our students. Why are some folks fearful of more rigor? If we want our students to be able to compete with students all over the world, we need to raise the bar. Thanks for taking the time to educate and inform. (Your friend and high school English teacher).”

As I speak to various people about Common Core and describe the whole picture, I am amazed that our meetings are much calmer, than those that the State hosts. We lay out what we have found, including original sources. I asked in that same Facebook thread where the evidence that these standards are rigorous was. Where is their research? Post it! Who conducted the research? Who participated? My friends and I have yet to receive an answer to these questions. What we can show you is that they haven’t done the research. We can show you the timeline, and how it was time- sensitive and money driven.

These standards are nothing wonderful! Otherwise there wouldn’t be so much opposition to them nation wide!

Asking Questions in Meetings

If what happened to Christel Swasey and others in the Wasatch School District Meeting is any indication of state tactics to avoid answering your questions, you need to be prepared to take control back in a meeting. There are a few tactics that get used in meetings you need to be aware of.

  1. The presenter drones on and doesn’t leave time for questions.
  2. The presenter deflects your question and tries to act like nobody else is interested and they’ll address your question after the meeting.
  3. The presenter works to separate you from the group during the meeting so you or your position are isolated. There are cases elsewhere, where a person might be pulled out of the room for someone to answer your question.

This is called the Delphi Technique and if you read this excellent article you will be prepared to defend yourself against it.

In general:

  1. Keep a calm voice and never lose your cool.
  2. Bring the person you’ve asked the question to, back on subject to answer your question. Stay focused.
  3. Don’t let them deflect or delay. Just calmly reiterate that your question hasn’t been answered.
  4. If someone else is being deflected, support them by asking the question again.

Read this report by Christel Swasey’s experience in a Wasatch School District meeting presentation by State Office of Education official Judy Park.

Here are some questions which you can ask at meetings. Please post your questions below in the comments.

  • Where is some empirical evidence that Common Core tests are based upon legitimate educational standards?
  • Why hasn’t a cost study been done to determine the actual costs of implementing common core?
  • Where can I read our state’s cost analysis for implementing Common Core and its tests? What will it cost per pupil?
  • Since a main selling point of Common Core was that we would have portability of students, why did Utah decide to adopt the integrated upper math version with Vermont instead of discrete years of math like all the other states?
  • Did you know that Common Core delays full completion of algebra to 9th grade while our 2007 standards set it in 8th? This means most students in Utah will not be able to take an authentic calculus class in 12th grade. How can we get better standards back in Utah?
  • Since Common Core introduces behavioral testing and tracking of our children, how can we opt our children out of all testing and tracking? State law says I have a “fundamental liberty interest” in the education of my children and the state is only there to support me in my responsibility. If that is true, and state law says it is, I want to know the process.
  • What is the amendment process for Common Core standards if we find out they are not working for us?
  • Where can I see for myself the evidence that Common Core standards have been proven to be of superior quality and that they are internationally benchmarked?
  • Where can I see for myself evidence that Common Core’s transformations (deleting cursive, minimizing classic literature, moving away from traditional math, etc.) –will benefit our children?
  • What is the American process of representation of individuals in the Common Core education and assessments system?
  • Does it seem good that the meetings of the standards writers (the CCSSO/NGA) are all closed-door meetings?
  • I read that there is a 15% cap on a state adding to the Core; so what do we do if we need to add a whole lot more to actually prepare our children well?
  • Although I have been told that Common Core is state-led, I missed the invitation to discuss this before it was decided for me and my children; please explain the analysis and vetting process for the upcoming national science and social studies standards.
  • The Constitution assigns education to the states, not to the federal government. Also, the federal General Educational Provisons Act (GEPA) states: “No provision of any applicable program shall be construed to authorize any department, agency, officer, or employee of the United States to exercise any direction, supervision, or control over the curriculum, program of instruction, administration, or personnel of any educational institution, school, or school system, or over the selection of library resources, textbooks, or other printed or published instructional materials by any educational institution or school system…In light of this, please explain why our state has agreed to intense micromanagement by the federal government under Common Core testing.


Hogwash Alert: “National Review” on Common Core

Reprinted from

I’m calling for a hogwash alert on today’s National Review article about Common Core.

The ironically titled  The Truth About Common Core article cannot be taken seriously.  It’s written without any links or references for its Common Core-promoting claims, and it’s written by two authors whose employers are largely funded by the main funder of all things Common Core.

Can anyone take seriously those who praise Common Core while being paid to do so?

The article makes “truth” claims that include the notion that Common Core is “more rigorous,” (where’s the proof?) and that the standards allow policymaking to happen locally.  How can that be? The standards are written behind closed doors in D.C.  The standards are  copyrighted and are unamendable by locals.  There is a 15% cap on adding to them, written into the ESEA  Flexibility Waiver Request.  And there is no amendment process; thus, no local control.

For anyone who has been living under an education reform rock, know this:   Gates is the single biggest promoter and funder of Common Core, bar none.) So, Fordham’s and Manhattan Institute’s writers should not be expected to be objective about Common Core.

If it seems like practically everyone supports Common Core, Gates’ money is why. Bill Gates has said he’s spent $5 BILLION  pushing (his version of) education reform.  He’s bribed the national PTA to advocate for Common Core to parents; he’s paid the CCSSO to develop Common Core; and he owns opinion maker Education Week magazine.  There’s a near-endless list of Gates’ attempts   (very successful, I might add)  to foist his vision of education without voter input.  In 2004, Gates signeda 26 page agreement with UNESCO  to develop a master curriculum for global teacher training.  Robert Muller, the former assistant secretary general of the U.N. is the grandfather of the world core curriculum, the goal being to bring all schools in all nations under one common core curriculum.

The National Review writes that it is a ”right-of-center” organization, as if that claim is a “trust-me” pass.   This is meaningless in Common Core land because, as Emmett McGroarty  of the American Principles Project, has said,  ”Opposition to Common Core cuts across the left-right spectrum.  It gets back to who should control our children’s education — people in Indiana or people in Washington?”

But we should clarify that oodles of Democrats and Republicans sell or benefit from Common Core implementation.  That is the top reason for the gold rush anxiety to promote the national standards.  A secondary reason is lemminghood (misplaced and unproven trust).

Republican Jeb Bush is behind the Foundation for Excellence in Education, a nongovernmental group which pushes Common Core and is, of course, funded by Gates.   Republican Rupert Murdoch owns not only Fox News, but also the common core implementation company Wireless Generation that’s creating common core testing technology.   Democrat Bob Corcoran, President of GE Foundation (author of cap and trade and carbon footprint taxes to profit GE on green tech) and 49% owner of NBC also bribed the PTA to promote Common Core, and gave an additional $18 million to the states to push common core implementation. Corcoran was seen recently hobnobbing with Utah’s Republican Lt. Governor Greg Bell, business leaders in the Chamber of Commerce, and has testified in the education committee that the opponents of Common Core in Utah “are liars”.  Meanwhile, Republican Todd Huston of Indiana got his largest campaign donation from David Coleman, common core ELA architect;  then, after Huston was elected as an Indiana State Representative and placed on Indiana’s education committee, Coleman hired Huston to be on the College Board.  They are both profiting from the alignment of  and AP courses and alignment of the SAT to the Common Core.  And of course, Huston’s listed on Jeb Bush’s controversial Foundation for Excellence in Education. Even my own Republican Governor Herbert of Utah serves on the elite executive committee of NGA, the Common Core founding group.  He doesn’t make money this way, but he does make lots of corporations happy.

I could go on and on about the Common Core gold-and-glory rush.  I have barely touched the countless Democrats who promote Common Core for gain.  But I don’t want to be up all night.

So, on to the liberals and/or not-right wing radicals who oppose Common Core:

California Democrat/author Rosa Koire  and respected educator like Diane Ravitch  oppose Common Core as an untested academic and political experiment that increases the high-stakes of standardized testing.  They see that Common Core is promoting unrepresentative formations of public-private-partnerships, and promotes teacher-micromanagement.   Chicago history teacher Paul Horton says Common Core turns teacher-artisans into teacher-widgets; he also sees it as a Pearson anti-trust issue.  Teacher Kris Nielsen has written  “Children of the Core” and  teacher Paul Bogush  calls teaching Common Core sleeping with the enemy.  Math teacher Stephanie Sawyer  predicts that with Common Core, there will be an increase in remedial math instruction and an increase in the clientele of tutoring centers.  Writing teacher Laura Gibbs calls the writing standards an inspid brew of gobbledygook.  Anonymously, many teachers have published other concerns in a survey produced by Utahns Against Common Core.

Still, political funders of the standards and corporations selling its implementation try to get away with marginalizing the opposition.  But it can’t be done honestly.  Because it’s not a fight between left and right.

This battle is between the collusion of corporate greed and political muscle versus the  individual voter.

It’s a battle between the individual student, teacher, or parent– versus huge public/private partnerships.  That’s the David and Goliath here.

The Common Core movement is not about what’s best for children.  It’s about greed and political control.   A simple test:  if Common Core was about helping students achieve legitimate classical education, wouldn’t the Common Core experiment have been based on empirical study and solid educator backing?

Did the authors of the Hogwash article really not know that Common Core wasn’t based on anything like empirical data but simply fluffed up on empty promises and rhetoric, from the beginning.

Where’s the basis for what proponents call  ”rigorous,” ”internationally competitive,”  and “research-based?”  Why won’t the proponents point to proof of “increased rigor” the way the opponents point to proof of increased dumbing downWe know they are fibbing because we know there is no empirical evidence for imposing this experiment on students  in America.  The emperor of Common Core  is wearing no clothes.

Many educators are crying out –even  testifying to legislatures– that Common Core is an academic disaster.  I’m thinking of  Professors Christopher Tienken, Sandra StotskyThomas Newkirk, Ze’ev Wurman, James Milgram, William Mathis, Susan Ohanian, Charlotte Iserbyt, Alan Manning, and others.

The National Review authors insist that Common Core is not a stealth “leftist indoctrination” plot by the Obama administration.  But that’s what it looks like when you study the reformers and what they create.

First, let’s look at the Common Core textbooks.  Virtually every textbook company in America is aligning now with Common Core.  (So even the states who rejected Common Core, and even private schools and home schools are in trouble; how will they find new textbooks that reflect Massachusetts-high standards?)

Pearson’s latest textbooks show extreme environmentalism and a global citizen creating agenda that marginalizes national constitutions and individual rights in favor of global collectivism. The biggest education sales company of all the Common Core textbook and technology sales monsters on the planet is Pearson, which is led by  mad ”Deliverology” globalist  Sir Michael Barber.   Watch his speeches.

He doesn’t just lead Pearson, the company that is so huge it’s becoming an anti-trust issue.  Sir Michael Barber also speaks glowingly of public private partnerships, of political “revolution,” ”global citizenship” and a need for having global data collection and one set of educational standards for the entire planet.  He’s a political machine.  Under his global common core, diversity, freedom and local control of education need not apply.

Along with some of the gold-rushing colluders chasing Common Core-alignment  product sales, there are political individuals calling educational shots, and these are without exception on the far, far left.  And of these, the National Review is correct in saying that their goal to nationalize U.S. education has been happening   since long before Obama came to power.

But they are wrong in saying that Common Core isn’t a road map to indoctrinating students into far left philosophy.  Power players like Linda Darling-Hammond and Congressman Chaka Fattah  ram socialism and redistribution down America’s throat in education policy, while Pearson pushes it in the curriculum.

It’s safe to say that Linda Darling-Hammond has as much say as anyone in this country when it comes to education policy.  She focuses on “equity” and “social justice” –that is, redistribution of wealth using schools.  Reread that last sentence.

Darling-Hammond has worked for CCSSO (Common Core developer) since long before the standards were even written.  She served on the standards validation committee.  She now works for SBAC (the Common Core test writer); she also consults with AIR (Utah’s Common Core test producer) and advises Obama’s administration;  she promotes the secretive CSCOPE curriculum and more.

Study her further here to learn the groups she works for, what’s in the books she writes, how many times she quoted herself in her report for the U.S. equity commission, and what she said in last summer’s speech to UNESCO about the need to take swimming pools  away from students.

So yes, there is an undeniable socialism push in Common Core textbooks and in the Department of Education.


The National Review’s authors claim Common Core won’t “eliminate American children’s core knowledge base in English, language arts and history.”  By cutting classic literature by 70% for high school seniors, they are absolutely doing exactly that.  The article says that Common Core doesn’t mandate the slashing of literature.  Maybe not.  But the tests sure will.

What teacher, constricted by the knowledge that her job is on the line, will risk lowering the high stakes student scores by teaching beyond what is recommended in the model curriculum  of the national test writers?

And that’s the tragic part for me as an English teacher.

Classic literature is sacred.  Its removal from American schools is an affront to our humanity.

Common Core doesn’t mandate which books to cut; the National Review is correct on that point; but it does pressure English teachers to cut out large selections of great literature, somewhere.  And not just a little bit.  Tons.

Informational text belongs in other classes, not in English.  To read boring, non-literary articles even if they are not all required to be Executive Orders, insulation manuals, or environmental studies (as the major portion of the English language curriculum) is to kill the love of reading.

What will the slashing do to the students’ appreciation for the beauty of the language, to the acquisition of rich vocabulary, to the appreciation for the battle between good and evil?

We become compassionate humans by receiving and passing on classic stories.  Souls are enlarged by exposure to the characters, the imagery, the rich vocabulary, the poetic language and the endless forms of the battle between good and evil, that live in classic literature.

Classic stories create a love for books that cannot be acquired in any other way.  Dickens, Shakespeare, Hugo, Orwell, Dostoevsky, Rand, Marquez, Cisneros, Faulkner, Fitzgerald– where would we be without the gifts of these great writers and their writings?  Which ones will English teachers cut away first to make room for informational text?

The sly and subtle change will have the same effect on our children as if Common Core had mandated the destruction of  a certain percentage of all classic literature.

How does it differ from book burning in its ultimate effects?

Cutting out basic math skills, such as being able to convert fractions to decimals, is criminal.  Proponents call this learning “fewer but deeper” concepts.  I call it a sin. Common Core also delays the age  at which students should be able to work with certain algorithms, putting students years behind our mathematical competitors in Asia.

For specific curricular reviews of Common Core standards, read Dr. Sandra Stotsky’s and Dr. Ze’ev Wurman’s math and literature reviews in the appendix  of the white paper by Pioneer Institute. (See exhibit A and exhibit B, page 24.)


The National Review claims that the standards “simply delineate what children should know at each grade level and describe the skills that they must acquire to stay on course toward college or career readiness” and claim they are not a ceiling but a floor.  This is a lie. The standards are bound by a 15% rule; there’s no adding to them beyond 15%.  That’s not a ceiling?

The article claims that ”college and career readiness” doesn’t necessarily mean Common Core.  Well, it does, actually.  The phrase has been defined on the ed. gov website as meaning sameness of standards to a significant number of states.  I would give you a link but this week, so oddly, the Department of Education has removed most of its previous pages.  You can see it reposted here:

The article insists that Common Core is not a curriculum; it’s up to school districts to choose curricula that comply with the standards.  Sure.  But as previously noted: 1) all the big textbook companies have aligned to Common Core.  Where are the options?   2) Common core tests and the new accountability measures put on teachers who will lose their jobs if students don’t score well on Common Core tests will ensure that teachers will only teach Common Core standards.  3) Test writers are making model curriculum and it’s going to be for sale, for sure.

The article falsely claims that “curriculum experts began to devise” the standards.  Not so: the architect of Common Core ELA standards (and current College Board president) is not, nor ever has been, an educator.  In fact, that architect made the list of Top Ten Scariest People in Education Reform.   A top curriculum professor has pointed out that the developers of Common Core never consulted with top curricular universities at all.

The article claims that states who have adopted Common Core could opt out, “and they shouldn’t lose a dime if they do” –but Title I monies have been threatened, and the No Child Left Behind waiver is temporary on conditions of following Common Core, and for those states who did get Race to the Top money (not my state, thank goodness) the money would have to be returned.  Additionally, every state got ARRA stimulus money to build a federally interoperable State Longitudinal Database System.  Do we want to give back millions and millions to ensure that we aren’t part of the de facto national database of children’s longitudinal school-collected, personally identifiable information?

The article states that the goal is to have children read challenging texts that will build their vocabulary and background knowledge.  So then why not read more –not less– actual literature?

The article also leaves out any analysis of the illegality of Common Core. The arrangement appears to be  illegal. Under the Constitution and under the General Educational Provisions Act (GEPA) the federal government is restricted from even supervising education.

GEPA states: “No provision of any applicable program shall be construed to authorize any department, agency, officer, or employee of the United States to exercise any direction, supervision, or control over the curriculum, program of instruction, administration, or personnel of any educational institution, school, or school system, or over the selection of library resources, textbooks, or other printed or published instructional materials by any educational institution or school system…”

And for those still believing the federal government isn’t “exercising direction, supervision or control” of the school system, look at two things.

1.  The federal technical review of tests being mandated by the Department of Education.

2.  The federal mandate that testing consoria must synchronize “across consortia,” that status updates and phone conferences must be made  available to the Dept. of Education regularly, and that data collected must be shared with the federal government “on an ongoing basis”

3.  The recent federal alteration of privacy laws that have taken away parental consent over student data collection.

Finally:  the “most annoying manipulation tactic” award for the National Review Article is a tie between the last two sentences of the National Review article, which, combined, say, “Conservatives used to be in favor of holding students to high standards… aren’t they still?”  Please.

Let’s rephrase it:

Americans used to be in favor of legitimate, nonexperimental standards for children that were unattached to corporate greed and that were constitutionally legal…  Aren’t we still?

Christopher Tienken on the School Reform Landscape

I got several emails about this excellent video yesterday. Christopher Tienken is a professor at Seton Hall University and was an early voice against Common Core. This short video he has made makes some excellent points, though I disagree with one of his points at the beginning that there isn’t a problem in education. We see very clearly that university schools of education are steeped in bad educational philosophies like constructivism, which is one of the more destructive methods of teaching when used to extremes as it is in our schools in Utah. Still, don’t let that stop you from enjoying this excellent video.

Truth in American Education vs. “A Complete Resource Guide for Utah’s Core Standards”

Below is a post from Christel Swasey’s blog concerning a massive document the Utah State Office of Education (USOE) put out trying to set the record straight on Common Core. Unfortunately for them, truth is not on their side.


By Christel Swasey

Of all the things that the Truth in American Education site has posted, my favorite thing is that title.

Truth in American Education.  The title itself teaches a fact most Americans still don’t realize: that there are loads of lies parading as education reform improvements that need exposure via verifiable, well researched facts.  It does not matter if good people with good intentions, merely parroting information received from other organizations, tell those lies in all sincerity.  Sincerity does not trump truth.  Facts are still facts and the consequences for all of us are huge for aligning our school systems with such lies.

Our children’s futures are at stake, yet few parents stand up.  Why?  For those of us who are naturally non-confrontational and trusting, the title, Truth in American Education, is a wake-up call that we should ask questions, verify claims and demand references for promises being spoken by authority figures in education reform today.  We should know our educational rights under the Constitution and know our rights as parents.

Don’t take unreferenced promises as answers.

Speaking of which: today I became aware of a 204-page document put out by the Utah State Office of Misinformation Education.

It’s called “A Complete Resource Guide  On Utah’s Core Standards.”

You can access the 204-pager here:

Rather than waste my afternoon composing yet another rebuttal to the Utah State Office of Education, I will just quote Professor Sandra Stotsky of Arkansas, who has read the 204-page Utah document.

Stotsky served on the official Common Core Validation Committee and was among those who refused to sign off that the Common Core standards were, in fact, adequate.

Of “A Complete Resource Guide On Utah’s Core Standards,” Stotsky states, “lies and unsupported claims” abound in the document.

She also writes:

“the writers didn’t even get the committee I was on right.  I was appointed to the Validation Committee, not the Standards Development Committee, and along with the one mathematician on the Validation Committee (and 3 others) declined to sign off on the final version of Common Core’s standards.

The writers keep repeating ad nauseam that Common Core was a state-led effort.  Everyone knows most of the effort was financed by the Gates Foundation and that Gates chose the standards writers who had no qualifications for writing K-12 standards in either ELA or math (David Coleman and Jason Zimba).

… I frankly can’t spend time on people who can’t document with citations their claims.   What country was used for international benchmarking?  Where’s the evidence?
The document simply repeats the false claims made by CCSSO from the beginning.”

What more can I possibly add?


That is the end of Christel’s article, but I (Oak Norton) want to add one thing about the math write-up this document from the USOE contains.

Whoever wrote the first few pages in the introduction that deals with the history in 2007 of revising the Utah math standards is ill informed and misrepresents several key points. I was heavily involved in this process to get new math standards for Utah and there were people in the USOE who actually worked to torpedo the process. There was supposed to be a comparison of the standards to Singapore and Japan. That never happened and was admitted to.

The USOE document above says that Drs. Milgram and Wu were dissatisfied with the 2007 standards but the Fordham Foundation gave them an A- rating, trying to show Milgram and Wu as out of touch. This is patently false, but this lie gets repeated down through the timeline of events presented by the USOE. Milgram and Wu were pleased with the FINAL product, but what happened prior to finalizing was a stunning indictment of the USOE’s personnel working against the math standards, and what upset these two distinguished standards writers. After Wu made a final review of the standards, he gave dozens of revisions to the USOE. They made NONE of his changes to the standards. When he found out, he was stunned.

Here’s a write-up I did in September 2007 which includes the email from Dr. Wu to Nicole Paulson chastising her for ignoring his revisions.

Then read these articles, particularly the first one which has other links to my website for what happened then and what the USOE is doing now to destroy quality math education in Utah.

It is clear that whoever prepared this 204 page piece of propaganda isn’t concerned with the truth. They are looking for a big document they can throw at legislators to convince them under the “official seal” that their side of the story is right without them having the time and resources to look up everything in the document. Unfortunately, those who are convinced by this documentation are accepting a house of cards.