Category Archives: Concerns

Students Assigned to Report on Parents’ Drug Use

ferpa violationI received the below letter from a parent of a student at Tooele Junior High School where this took place. The parent has asked to remain anonymous.

UPDATE (7/14/16): Another parent has come forward whose child attends Clarke Johnson Jr High in Tooele who also received this same assignment. Two different schools and teachers in the same district.

I believe these schools have violated state FERPA law 53A-13-302 entitled “Activities prohibited without prior written consent — Validity of consent — Qualifications — Training on implementation.”

Specifically section 1(e) which forbids “(e) critical appraisals of individuals with whom the student or family member has close family relationships;” without the prior written consent of the parents…among other sections. How a teacher thought this was OK is beyond me.

The local school district is supposed to provide training on this and the board is supposed to provide disciplinary action, per the last two statements in this code section.

In the “opt-out law” (line 158) that Senator Aaron Osmond got passed a few years ago, under state law parents are supposed to be notified each year of their rights. I don’t believe that’s happening at any school and it seems like parents need to be notified of their FERPA rights as well.

And now, the letter.

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“In 2014 my 8th grader brought home an assignment for his health or science class, I don’t recall which subject. The students were learning about drugs and alcohol and were given a worksheet titled “Parent Interview”.  The students were instructed to interview their parents, write their parents’ answers down and return the worksheet to their teacher. This was a graded assignment.

The worksheet asked questions like “Have you ever used drugs?”, “What age were when you first used a drug or alcohol?”, “What did it make you feel like?”, “How often or how many times did you do drugs?”, and questions of that nature.

I was uncomfortable with the worksheet because I did not think it was any of the school’s business.  My husband and I had already talked to our kids, and continue talking to our kids about drugs and what we expect.  I did not see why the school felt the need to force this discussion and/or get a record of our discussion.  I answered the worksheet so my son will get credit, but I did not answer honestly on all questions.  My son did not like to have to interview me on this topic and turn it in to his teacher.

In the 2015/2016 school year my younger son received the same assignment in 8th grade.  I filled it out again and was not honest with my answers.  Again I felt it was none of the school’s business.   A lot of parents I know in the community were given this same assignment.  Some of them talked about how they just wrote “no” on all the answers and turned it in, or they wrote that they will not fill it out.

I don’t think the school should be putting parents and students in this position, nor should they know or have that kind of information.”

Substitute Teacher Exposes Common Core Math Nonsense

The following letter was sent to me by a Utah substitute teacher who wishes to remain anonymous.


One of the first experiences I had with the new methods used to teach Common Core math was when I co-taught  a math class as a substitute teacher in junior high school.  My job was to assist students with the assignment led by the math teacher.   The teacher was illustrating equations, for example, 34 x 3.  She was using the white board and instructed the students to draw out 30 boxes to represent the number 30.  She drew on the white board 3 boxes (each representing 10), but told the students that they could not draw 3 boxes, they must draw 30 boxes.   It was difficult to keep the students on task.  Many students stopped drawing and were shaking and massaging their hands because they hurt from writing.  Many became distracted.  A good portion of the 50 minute class period consisted of drawing out boxes to represent different numbers all grouped by 10.

As I was leaving the classroom I told the teacher that substitutes need training on how to teach the curriculum using the new Common Core  methods.    She stated that teachers need the course as well. I left the class feeling inadequate, like it was a waste of the students’ time and mine, and feeling bad because I had to encourage the students to do something I am not even following.  Before the standards were implemented I had substituted for this particular math teacher many times and I always found her lesson plans well organized and easy to follow.   Since Common Core I do not sign up for her math classes.

I had a similar experience co-teaching the “new math” with another substitute teacher.  We were both trying our best to learn the lesson plan before the students arrived but were unable to understand the new teaching methods.  When we presented the lesson to the students they seemed just as confused as we were and we were unable to answer their questions.  The students got distracted and we were unable to teach the lesson.

When I’ve substituted in elementary schools since the implementation of Common Core I often find that the worksheets are confusing, incorrect, and there is not enough information to solve word problems.   One such example was on a test for fourth or fifth graders, I don’t recall which, in which Juanita’s sticker problem (below) appeared. I found the image below online after seeing it on our students’ test.  The students were confused and asked me what to do.  I instructed them to write that there is not enough information provided to answer this question.

Our students deserve a MUCH better curriculum.

Common Core Math Juanita

Maine State Board of Education member speaks out against CBE

Reprinted with permission from: http://nhfamiliesforeducation.org/content/maine-state-board-education-member-speaks-out-against-competency-based-education

My name is Heidi Sampson, I am a member of the State Board of Education in Maine. I am in no way speaking for the Maine SBE, but as a concerned citizen who has a vested interest in NH.  I wanted to share information with the New Hampshire Legislators on the Competency Based Education model now being implemented in the New Hampshire Schools.  Maine has been engaged in the same transformation although in Maine it’s called Proficiency Based Education.  The name is different but the problems will be the same because both models are based on the old and failed Outcome Based Education model which is part of the national redesign in public education.

As you move forward with legislation on Competency Based Learning and Assessments (HB323) it’s important to have this foundation of knowledge and history to carefully analyze whether you or your constituents really want this model in their local public schools.  Ask yourself, when did any of your parents demand your local public schools transform to the old, failed Outcome Based Model?  Chances are they did not.  The driving force behind this educational transformation is the Nellie Mae Foundation.  They heavily funded Non Profits in Maine to carry their water.  Great School Partnership got its start with Nellie Mae grants for their first 2 years.  Contracts have indicated a sizable fee with no deliverables identified. Currently the legislature is considering a bill to repeal the mandate to implement Proficiency Based Diplomas.

In Maine we began the process in earnest toward Proficiency Based Education that is identical to Competency Based Education. It was introduced on a large scale with the pilot program, Reinventing Schools Coalition (RISC). RISC was initiated in Alaska and implemented in California and Colorado.  Their results have been nothing stellar, no evidence of academic improvement was apparent. In fact, many, many, three year comparisons showed downward trends in Math, ELA and Science at all grade levels.  I have included a chart below from the pilot schools as well as some forerunners in Maine.

RISC has morphed into MCL (Mass Customized Learning) prior to the states adoption of the Proficiency Based Diploma mandate LD 1422 which passed in 2012. All these approaches have the same philosophy in common.  This is nothing new and has been around for generations being soundly rejected as a failure every time.

Outcome Based Education decades ago was the last big push to change the nature and outcomes of our public education.  It destroys traditional education, its methods, curriculum, and its means of assessment, time frames and goals. The Competency-Based model will only teach students what to think, not how to think. It will necessarily lower the bar in an attempt to equalize outcomes… and that never works.

Competency/Proficiency are such a palatable words.  Of course we want children to be competent or have competency or be proficient.

The average citizen understands what these words mean; a high aptitude, to have expertise, knack or know how, to be highly skilled, talented and very capable.

BUT what do the proponents of this effort really mean by competence/proficient?

First, it is critical to understand an important distinction:

•  Competency relates to attitudes, responses, behaviors or actions easily scored on a machine.

•  Education involves much more, requiring well trained, experienced human beings to assess and score.

These are not the same, yet we are led to conclude they are synonymous?

The word selection is deliberately designed to neutralize the unsuspecting public and even legislators, so it will be embraced.

So, what about where it has been tried? After billions of dollars and tremendous upheaval to school systems both large and small, the reformers have failed to deliver what they claimed. In fact, the failures were so complete that the systems were dismantled. This has happened in individual schools, districts, cities and states across this country. It happened in other countries.

It’s a challenge to keep up with all the changes in Maine education since our own Reform Act of 1984 and all of the ramifications of the federal programs; America 2000, Goals 2000, No Child Left Behind and now the infamous Race-to-the-Top. The consistent federal interference has not helped our state.

There is no middle ground with the move away from a time and [Carnegie] unit based system.  Schools have been moving away from teaching academics toward skills training – for workforce labor. Workforce development has nothing to do with self-selecting career choices and building a resume to that end.  Workforce labor development is a pre-selected path based on external information, not driven by a student’s dreams, desires or determination. This teaching model is a departure from Classical Approach for Education to BF Skinner’s Behavior Modification model of education.

If an expectation is not met, a child must repeat the drill again and again until they meet the predetermined outcome.  No need to prepare and no need to strive to do better; just do enough to get by and move on to the next standard. Subject matter will be broken down and compartmentalized.  A set of pre-determined expectations are the gate keeper to moving to the next compartmentalized subject matter.  No need to prepare; they just need to know how to properly respond by hitting the correct button.  This will enforce compliance.

Does this sound like the development of creative, innovative and independent thinkers? Or does this sound more like training pigeons?

Does this sound like we are creating competitive opportunities for them? Please consider this:

•  Independent, creative students will become the job creators.

•  Students who can manage the pressure of competition will succeed and thrive with the future challenges they will face.

The highest achievers and lowest achievers are either disheartened or disenfranchised, respectively.

The incessant, constant testing of each tiny, segregated standard has disemboweled every subject matter.

•  Learning is not linear!

•  The whole picture is lost to them.

•  Truth and knowledge are irrelevant.

•  Students will be sorted and ranked using psychometric (behavioral) data collected.

•  A child’s behavior, attitude, belief system and attributes will determine a child’s ‘value’  as human capital for the global labor market.

A premium is set for a student to know how to respond to a series of questions not what is of value and substance. The former is a subjective (opinion based) assessment; the latter is the only quantifiable (factual) assessment.

Like a rat navigating a maze in a lab, children are expected to navigate the useless information with a mouse to complete their test on time.

Behavior modification has nothing to do with true education, that of acquiring knowledge, using logic, or assessing truth. But this is the focus in education now, especially with competency based education.

There are indications students are learning less.  I’ve included two sample High School Physics Exams.  At one school (a forerunner for PBE), this year’s Honors Physics seniors took a 2007 pre Proficiency Based Education basic-level Physics exam and most were unable to pass what the lower level class was able to complete 8 years ago.  (See attached example of physics exams)

Physics Accel Exam2007- (Pre MCL)

Physics Honor Exam2015 (MCL 6 years)

MAINE STUDY

Maine’s Education and Cultural Affair Committee commissioned a 2 year study to be conducted on this issue.  David Silvernail and the USM Center for Education Policy, Applied Research, and Evaluation posted their work April 30, 2014 titled Implementation of a Proficiency-Based Diploma System: Early Experiences in Maine. Although this work was funded by the Nellie Mae Foundation, which strongly advocated for proficiency based education this report is not a glowing report. There evidence of success is lacking:  “After an extensive review of the literature, it became evident that, while there are many conceptual pieces describing what a standards-based or proficiency-based education system should look like, there are few existing conceptual models that envelop all of the requisite elements for successful implementation. Furthermore, there is limited empirical evidence of the effectiveness of these systems, which has resulted in school districts having little historical information and no clear evidence to guide them in developing the new diploma systems.” (pgs. 16-17).

A related study sited within the same USM study stated: “In addition, this study’s statistical comparison of a proficiency-based intervention programs to nonintervention programs revealed that the intervention group demonstrated lower academic performance.” (Lewis et al., 2013, p. 3-4).

From a strictly objective scientific evidence piece of research, it would be necessary to have a separate study conducted that is not funded by Nellie Mae, the Gates Foundation or Educate Maine.  All these organizations are self-propagating and the public is not receiving evidence that is unbiased or will help to further the cause of the funding organizations. If this system was highly ineffective, with the current studies, we would not discover this until it is far too late.

In Maine over 100 districts are not prepared to properly implement the mandated Proficiency Based Diploma system and have therefore filed and received extensions. It seems a logical conclusion to assume the legislature was misled during the passage of LD 1422.  This is not a surprise as they were only allowed to receive one perspective; only the potential of an unproven system.

Now that we have been able to evaluate the policy closer and have had time to speak with stake holders; teachers, parents, students, college admissions personnel and special education professionals, we now have a much clearer picture of what a Proficiency Based Diploma system brings.

“Our data suggest that an additional issue with local translation of external standards and state-level legislation was evident in the lack of consistency in the definition of key features necessary in developing and implementing proficiency-based diploma systems”. (pg. 49)

The fact that curricula would have to change is another area that should be examined. School Boards are to a great extend completely unaware of what this is all about.  In many Maine districts, the School Boards have approved “A Concept” which has given the administration; cart-blanche approval to bring in anything and everything without any accountability.

If you want a system where teachers can teach and students can learn, imposing a learning culture and curricula based on an unproven ideology further clouded with problems of interpretation and implementation only complicates the goals.

Conclusion

We have now invested years in this experiment, with years to go; years of continued interruption and false hope for the parents and students. There will be more talks, presentations, demonstrations, slide shows and testimonials aimed at convincing us that we are on a path to improvement. But in the end, after the money is spent and changes have been made, after school boards and legislatures have changed, we’ll discover what so many others did.  Our Proficiency-Based model will collapse under its own weight. We can wait for that inevitability or we can do the right thing now.

ScoresScores Source: http://www.greatschools.org/

Dr. Thompson slams USOE misrepresentations about SAGE

Dr. Gary ThompsonAt a recent legislative interim meeting, Jo Ellen Schaeffer from the USOE stated to legislators that SAGE testing was validated by UCLA. This was quite the revelation since for years we’ve been stating that SAGE was an invalid test, and the testing that was done in Florida on Utah’s test proved it (Link1, Link 2).

With this news that UCLA had apparently done a validation study, Jakell Sullivan reached out to Dr. Gary Thompson to get his take on things since legislators were being told with authority, that SAGE was a valid test. Dr. Thompson’s quick response points out numerous problems with the USOE’s statements. With permission I post his letter here.


Dear Ms. Sullivan

I have read the Utah State Board of Education’s memo in response to Representative Lowery Snow’s inquiry, on your behalf, about his concerns regarding the validity of the Utah SAGE test.  Here is a partial summary statement from the Board’s response informing Representative Snow, that the SAGE is indeed a valid test:

“The validity of Utah’s Student Assessments of Growth and Excellence (SAGE) has been confirmed through a number of independent sources. The most recent studies include: (1) The National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing, UCLA (CRESST), (2) Education Next, (3) Achieve.org, (4) Independent Verification of the Psychometric Validity for the Florida Standards Assessment. Each study substantiates both the high rigor of Utah’s standards and the validity and reliability of the assessments that measures those standards.”

As cited evidence of SAGE validity, the Board references “Education Next”, and “Achieve”. org”. Per the Board’s own memo, this cited evidence discusses  “high standards and state proficiency levels” when compared to the NAEP test.   This is not related to specific inquires regarding the validity of the Utah SAGE test.  As such, a response from me will not be forth coming.

I also will not respond to the Board’s reference to the State of Florida’s Validity study.   Several months ago, the Board used this same document to substantiate Utah’s SAGE test validity.   I sent a written response to the Board, and the general public, factually rebutting this dangerously irresponsible, and inaccurate claim.

As you and thousands of Utah parents are aware, I am still waiting for a response.   The letter sent to Board Vice Chairman, Dave Thomas, in response to his spurious claims, was referenced and published by Utahan’s Against Common Core’s, Chrystal Swasey. Here is the link: http://www.utahnsagainstcommoncore.com/sage-validity-part-2-dr-thompson-responds/

Thus, the only item left to rebut from the Utah State Board of Education memo, is its unexplainable reliance on a yet to be published AIR-SAGE validity study, produced by the federally funded, quasi governmental, UCLA campus-based research group, CRESST.

I am going to keep this short and sweet:

Here are five (5) questions that you, Representative Snow, the media, and voters in Utah may wish to ask Board of Education Chairman Dave Crandall during his “debate” appearance this Wednesday, June 22 at Summit Academy:

1. Why did the State Board rely on the research group “CRESST” as the primary source of proof of SAGE validity, without letting parents and lawmakers know that CRESST is “funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Educational Research and Improvement (OERI)”?  (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Center_for_Research_on_Evaluation,_Standards,_and_Student_Testing)

2.  Utah paid $40,000,000 to AIR, Inc. (American Institute of Research) to design the SAGE test.  Were you aware that the research group CRESST, which produced the “validity study”, is supported financially by, and lists AIR as “Partners” on its own website? (http://cresst.org/partners/)   Does the Board leadership consider this to be an “independent”, and unbiased relationship?

3.  Since 2012, were the Board and the State Office of Education aware that the current Director of CRESST, Li Cai, received multiple millions of dollars of personal research grants from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, U.S. Department of Education, and (you can’t make this stuff up) Utah’s SAGE test designer, AIR? (http://cresst.org/wp-content/uploads/LiAbridge.pdf )  How can a Director of a research organization produce an objective and unbiased validity study on the very group that has given him substantial amounts of money for independent research?

4. Why did the State Board of Education fail to inform parents that their children were taking a yet to be validated test for the past three years?  Is not such omission a complete and blatant violation of trust?

5. Are you aware that Board placed hundreds’ of thousands of Utah children at risk of harm, and exploitation, at the hands of a behavioral research corporation (AIR), by allowing them to experiment on children without the informed, written consent of their parents?  Are you aware that this unethical practice is also against Utah law? (https://le.utah.gov/xcode/Title53A/Chapter13/53A-13-S302.html) “Activities prohibited without prior written consent”

When the Utah State Board of Education and State Office of Education produce an independent validity study, I would be delighted to devote professional time to review it at your request.   In the meantime, the current memo submitted to Representative Snow in support of SAGE “validity” is clearly a deliberate attempt to deceive an esteemed member of the Utah Interim Education Committee, and only serves to highlight the unethical, unconstitutional, incestuous relationship between the State of Utah, and the U.S. Federal Government.   

Both the Utah State Board of Education and the Utah State Office of Education have a long, well documented history of providing lawmakers and parents in Utah with responses to inquiries laced with “lies of omission.”   This deceptive practice places public school children in Utah at high risk for continued psychometric experimentation, and profit motivated exploitation via the hands of SAGE test designer, AIR, Inc.   I have no desire to debate current Board Chairman Dave Crandall in a public setting, until this serious matter of continued experimentation and exploitation of our children is answered in a clear, ethical, fact based manner.

In summary, given the clear and present danger this poses to 650,000 vulnerable Utah children, it is my professional opinion that you consider asking Representative Snow to seek an independent inquiry regarding this matter via Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes.  It is my strong, evidence based, professional opinion that Utah’s education leaders at the Board of Education and State Office of Education, are more committed to adhering to the educational political “flavors of the day”, as opposed to providing Utah’s children with objective, science based solutions to serious education problems in our State.

Please let me know if I can be of more assistance to you in the future.  Feel free to distribute this response to the general public as you deem to be appropriate under the circumstances.

Best regards;

Gary Thompson, Psy.D.

District 10 Candidate For Utah State Board of Education

www.vote4drgary.com

 

Tell your legislators NO to CBE

Now that the governor and state board seem to be interested in replacing Common Core with Utah standards (and that’s not the solution we’re looking for, but local control of standards, assessments, and curriculum at the district/school level), and SAGE tests are staggering from multiple body blows, what’s the “next thing” reformers want to impose on our children? Competency-based education (CBE).

Just say NO.

What is CBE? Let me point you to a fine resource that will help you understand the issues. The mastery of the parts does not equal the mastery of the whole. CBE is just the rename of “Outcome-based education” that was shot down decades ago, and now CBE must be shot down again. Just because we have digital tools now doesn’t mean it’s any more right for students today than it was back then .

Start here:

http://curmudgucation.blogspot.com/2016/03/whats-so-bad-about-competency-based.html?m=1

To the proponents of CBE, I would suggest that instead of personalized learning, we need personal learning. That’s not saying we need a greater teacher to student ratio, but we need to allow children to turn into self-learning adults. One major purpose of education should be to create life-long learners. I haven’t been in school for 25 years yet I continue to study and learn things because I enjoy it. Students need the same ability (and passion) of being interested in a subject without being told what to learn, when to learn it, and what’s on a test.

As students age through the system they need to be given more freedom of time to pursue their own interests. This can be a class period or more. Self-study should be required. Let them choose their own subject and present to the teacher a plan for their own mastery of the content at the level they want to master it. When they’ve done that let them present a plan for the next topic they want to dive into, whether it’s shallow or deep. When students pursue what they are curious about, they will learn it faster and better and the teacher can be there to guide the student in their own true journey. Completion of a unit would be writing a paper or doing a presentation for the class reflecting their mastery of that topic. That’s lifelong learning! Students could even review each others’ plans and challenge each other to perform.

Teachers in this class role could help students to obtain their own personal mastery, not some checklist of predefined mastery units or state standards. It is a grave disservice we do to students to tell them they have graduated when all they have done is learned to master what they have been told to do. If learning is truly self-learning, we need to reintroduce true self-learning to the school system.

Please read the above article and then contact your legislators and tell them you do not want Competency-Based Education in Utah. You want personal learning and local control.

Abortion Test Question

A student attending Stansbury High School was taking his biology exam in an online format and got this very personal question about handling an abortion. Thankfully he had his cell phone to take a picture of the test question he received. Click to enlarge it.

The student said this question had come up earlier in the year when taking a different test. This is a very disturbing question that appears to violate Utah law asking about potential religious and sexual beliefs. This is not a SAGE test, but some other provider openly seeking behavioral data on students.

Abortion Test Question

 

Common Core Sting

We’ve been saying this for years, but now it’s on record. In a newly released video by Project Veritas, they caught an account manager for Houghton-Mifflin saying she hates kids and Common Core is all about selling books and making money.  Reminiscent of the Planned Parenthood videos, Project Veritas says more videos are coming to establish the fact that this wasn’t just a single incident but a pattern across the industry. I will continue to post the additional videos Project Veritas has filmed for easy reference.

ESSA Invades Your Home

Writing this week in the Deseret News, Senator Orrin Hatch and State Superintendent Brad Smith wrote:

No Child Left Behind was a setback for Utah. It subjected our children to excessive testing, stripped our schools of critical decision-making authority and ceded too much power to the federal government. After 13 years of frustration and disappointment, Utah families have rightly been clamoring to leave this law behind.

That’s why we supported the opportunity to scrap No Child Left Behind and give Utahns a fresh start. This week, Congress passed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), a massive education overhaul that the conservative Wall Street Journal called “the largest devolution of federal control to the states in a quarter-century.”

This is prime evidence of people who:

  1.  Do not read bills before commenting and just rely on others to tell them what a source document says and means.
  2.  Evidence that people read something and attribute good intentions to the federal government and hope for the best.
  3.  Actually just like the feds involved in our lives more and more.

I cannot believe that these two individuals from Utah would actually be in favor of the feds now invading the home as this bill is about to set in motion (see below), so I have to assume that they are part of category 1 or 2 above. Thankfully, 5 of our 6 members of Utah’s delegation actually READ the bill and voted against this abomination. What abomination am I talking about specifically?

Alpine School District board member Wendy Hart posted this article to her blog. I’m reposting with permission.

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From: http://wendy4asd.blogspot.com/2015/12/jan-4-2016-deadline-to-support-family.html

Jan 4, 2016: Deadline to Support the Family vs US Dept of Ed

I hope everyone is having an enjoyable vacation.  My family enjoyed a wonderful Christmas and we are looking forward to 2016.  I apologize for interrupting what should be family time, but I felt this information was extremely important.

As many of you know, the replacement law for No Child Left Behind, called the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), was passed in December.  As part of that law, the states must come up with a plan for education that includes a ‘Family Engagement Plan.’  Also, the US Dept of Education (USED) is supposed to come up with their own Family Engagement Plan that states MAY adopt, if they don’t want to do their own homework.  The USED has placed their plan on their website and is inviting comments until JANUARY 4th.  (It’s almost as if they didn’t want public comments, since they put this out over Christmas break, but I digress.)  Here is the link for comments: http://www2.ed.gov/about/inits/ed/earlylearning/families.html#family-engagement-draft-statement

I would especially encourage you to read pages 13 -14.

Utah State Law says that parents are primarily responsible for the education of their children and that the state’s role is to be secondary and SUPPORTIVE to the parents’ role.  The Family Engagement piece is anything but supportive to the parents’ role.  It does have a lot of nice-sounding stuff to blur the lines of you being allowed to ‘partner’ with the Feds/State as they raise your children.

I could go on with my own diatribe, but I found this from left-leaning education blogger Peter Greene that accurately assesses what a lot of the problems are with this ‘plan’.  http://curmudgucation.blogspot.com/2015/12/the-federal-family-fixing-plan.html  I appreciate the fact that this plan is so appalling to average, normal people that it is not a left/right issue, it is a parents vs bureaucrats issue.

Please take a few minutes to weigh in.  Once this train is on the track, we will be told it’s too late.

Here are some samples:

Implement a vision for family engagement that begins prenatally and continues across settings and throughout a child’s developmental and educational experiences.

Develop and integrate family engagement indicators into existing data systems 

Local schools and programs should track progress on family engagement goals, as detailed in family engagement plans.

Just remember this when we adopt something egregious as part of our state plan.  The mantra that things like this can’t happen in Utah hasn’t been applicable for far too many years.

And a public thank you to Reps Chaffetz, Love, Bishop, and Stewart, as well as Sen. Mike Lee for voting against ESSA and it’s horrid intrusion into the autonomy of the family!

Happy New Year and thank you for all your support and involvement!

Wendy
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Are you KIDDING ME? Parents, please demand your legislators nullify this bill, this session. ESSA and NCLB have no place in Utah schools or homes.  Contact them now at http://le.utah.gov/GIS/findDistrict.jsp.

Help Stop NGSS in its Tracks

Utah’s state board was misled in April by the state superintendent. He sent them an email either knowingly or unwittingly, telling state board members the new science standards were Utah created. Here is his email.

MEMORANDUM
TO: Members, Utah State Board of Education
FROM: Brad C. Smith
Chief Executive Officer
DATE: April 9-10, 2015
ACTION: Release Grades 6-8 Science Standards Draft for 90-Day Public Review
Background:
The Utah State Office of Education in collaboration with the Utah science education community (composed of Utah science teachers, Utah district science curriculum specialists, and Utah higher education representatives) has created a revised draft of the Utah Core Science Standards for grades 6-8. The revision is based on addressing concerns about the format of current science standards in multiple documents and presenting a single vision for college and career readiness in science education. The draft responds to feedback from multiple stakeholder groups including parents, teachers, district administrators, university personnel, and the State Board Standards and Assessment committee.

Superintendent Smith has thus far refused to answer several questions I have asked him concerning this email either verbally or in writing. We’ve known they were not Utah created for over a year now and that they were word for word exactly what the NGSS. There was no “draft” with feedback from multiple stakeholders, parents, teachers, admin, etc…In fact, last fall there was a training in these standards held at Weber State for teachers to get fully on board with them even though they had not been adopted or put through any type of public review process. It’s a total sham.

As a result of this email from the Superintendent, and no doubt plenty of testimony from USOE (which very well could have deceived the superintendent into sending out such a false email above), the state board released these NGSS standards into the public for a 90-day review period.

That review period pointed out dozens of serious issues with the standards on a wide range of topics. You can watch the Provo meeting here for an idea of concerns people raised.

As a result of these concerns, the state board asked that the concerns be addressed. The USOE got right to work and has now released the new draft of the standards for a 30-day period of review. The public needs to comment on these standards, but most importantly, contact your state board member and ask him/her not to vote these standards in. There is a very small subset of publishers that have materials ready for NGSS. Teachers are not trained in this method of teaching. Several teachers spoke out about this in that Provo meeting linked to above. This is a disaster waiting to happen. And to top things off, the USOE’s rewrite of NGSS is exactly that, simply a minor rewrite of the same standards.

Link to comment on standards (must comment immediately. I think the deadline is November 9th):

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/SEEdReview

Link to find your board member and contact him/her:

http://elections.utah.gov/map/district-maps

Contact info for your board member:

http://schoolboard.utah.gov/board-members-2

Vince Newmeyer, a member of the science standards parent review committee has typed up this review of the standards. Please read it.

Review of the USOE October Proposed “Utah SEEd” Standards

revised 26 October 2015

USOE Admits that they Seek to adopt the National Next Generation Science Standards1

The Utah State Office of Education has come out with another draft of the proposed science standards on the 9th of October for a SHORT 30 DAY review. Your response is urgently needed!

Executive Summary:

The October draft of the “Utah SEEd” standards remain in character and precept simply the national Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), which is the complement2 to the national Common Core State Standards (CCSS) which Utah adopted and which invited so much protest. The only NGSS performance standards that have been dropped from the October draft had to do with perfectly acceptable standards related to kinetic energy and a standard on sensory organs and the brain. Only two standards were added from Utah’s existing Science Standards. Essentially all of the reasons3 4 for rejecting the national NGSS standards from the April revision (then feigned as “primarily Utah” derived SEEd standards5) remain with the October version of the “Utah SEEd” NGSS standards. Though there are minor changes, a mostly NGSS Utah State standard will almost certainly produce a curriculum of essentially all of NGSS as teachers and districts seek NGSS compatible material for textbooks and lesson plans, etc. Any standards founded on NGSS should be rejected so that Utah can develop true Utah standards in character and values. Please respond to the online survey (https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/SEEdReview) but also Call and Email the Board members as well as Ricky Scott, the State Science Specialist, and Brad Smith the State Superintendent Now!

The Background:

In April, when the first publicly presented draft of the “Utah SEEd” standards was released for the 90-day public review, the USOE tried to falsely cast the proposed standards as a Utah grown, Utah values effort. In spite of the many notices to them that their charade was not working, and that those who have investigated knew that the proposed standards were word-for-word taken from the NGSS performance standards, yet the USOE persisted in this masquerade even up through the last public meeting held on the standards. For one of many examples, you can watch Diana Suddreth parrot the tired line at that last public hearing in Salt Lake City on the standards that

the standards … have been developed over a process of about three years in conjunction with primarily Utah science educators but with input from others along the way,”6

and yet there were not five words difference between the proposed Utah performance standards and the NGSS performance standards. How could this April draft be a “Utah” driven process which lasted, as Dianna said, “about three years?” Within the final document there was no copyright notice. One would expect to find a copyright notice, like the one specified by the copyright holder of the NGSS (“© Copyright 2013 Achieve, Inc. All rights reserved.”) if it were a copy, but less than 5 words of no significant difference and no copyright notice?

Why such subterfuge in the presentation of these standards? Almost certainly it is because USOE officials gave assurances through multiple representatives on multiple occasions (after the heat they received in the way the “Common Core” with all of its baggage was slipped in) that Utah would not adopt further national standards. See Youtube Utah’s Science7

After the review for the first publicly released draft had been completed, the board voted and sent the draft back for a fundamental re-write. Further, there were promises made from a USOE official that the rewritten document would not be just a thesaurus translation but have a foundationally different character on controversial issues, such as global warming and Darwinian evolution. Well did it happen?

The New Draft:

The largest change in the character and nature of the standards, as presented to the board of education, is that the standards are no longer cast as a Utah derived proposal but that Utah “…SEEd standards remain based on the Next Generation Science Standards.”8 No longer are they falsely casting this as a Utah grown, Utah values effort, but they are admitting that this is a national standard which they are attempting to adopt. But neither are they completely straight forward with the issue. More completely, the forward material says “Most SEEd standards remain based on the Next Generation Science Standards (emphasis added).”9

In this case “most” means that all of the performance standards proposed are fundamentally NGSS performance standards with the exception of three (3). Two standards are drawn from concepts in the current Utah standards, and one is a further explanation of the greenhouse gas concept. All of the rest of the standards (that is all but these three) are NGSS either exact wording, a thesaurus translation, or in four cases a combination of several NGSS standards. It is interesting to note that long before this standard was released, this author made a list of 27 performance standards from the proposed April NGSS “Utah SEEd” standards which were of a potential concern (depending on how they actually ended up being taught). Only seven of the 27 concerning standards showed some improvement in wording in that they were stated in less dogmatic terms or were re-framed in a manner that brought less concern to one degree or another. Of those seven standards that appeared to have a less bias or concerning cast to them, only three (two of which was of low concern to begin with) really made it on the concern list. That is the sum that could be claimed to be an improvement! The only other adjustment was that the perfectly acceptable performance standards related to kinetic energy were removed, and also a standard about “sensory receptors respond to stimuli by sending messages to the brain” was also removed. It is likely these minor changes reflect more the changes that will be adopted in future versions of the NGSS and not a fundamental change from internal Utah motivations.

The retention of NGSS problematic standards persists even down to the widely discredited notion that embryological development follows the claimed evolutionary development or “Ontogeny Recapitulates Phylogeny” in NGSS MS-LS4-3 or 7.5.4 in the October draft. This notion and fabricated evidence to promote the notion was erroneously advanced by Ernst Haeckel in the late 1800s. It is now and has been for some time widely recognized, by those who have studied embryological development in depth, to be completely false10. For just one example, Erich Blechschmidt commented in his 1977 book The Beginnings of Human Life.

“The so-called basic law of biogenetics [Ontogeny Recapitulates Phylogeny] is wrong. No buts or ifs can mitigate this fact. It is not even a tiny bit correct or correct in a different form, making it valid in a certain percentage. It is totally wrong.”11

Sometime ago, while the 90 day public review of the science standards proposed in April were under way, I pointed out that the word-for-word effort to adopt the NGSS was a measure of the allegiance of USOE to remain true to the NGSS national standard. Now, with this October revision we see that the resolve of USOE to adopt the NGSS has not diminished. The USOE even doggedly clings to NGSS tenants that have for a long time been discredited. Further, this shows that the USOE has every intention to adopt all of the NGSS K-12 in which the larger portion has not even been discussed.

The forward material of the new draft claims various other improvements such as more clarity, implementations from the Fordham report, removal of age inappropriate material, and such12. It is ironic that the added clarity largely comes from the adoption of additional verbiage from the NGSS such as NGSS Clarification Statements, either word-for-word or closely tied language. These Clarification Statements had previously existed in drafts produced prior to the April draft but they did not go out to public review. Furthermore, I had stated from the beginning of the April review period that USOE almost certainly had every intention of reincorporating the Clarification Statements in one form/method or another and now here they are emerging just as predicted. As for changes made related to the Fordham report, I see no significant evidence of such. It appears to be a lip service only claim. The last thing I will comment on in this area is the statement that “Age Appropriateness” adjustment have been made as performance standards which encouraged “students debate with evidence about climate change and human effects on the environment were removed from 6th grade.” Yes they were removed from 6th grade only to reappear in the 8th grade standards. Still 8th grade is not what I would consider age appropriate.

Summary NGSS founded NGSS results

While we see that there were minor adjustments for the better, the fact remains that these are NGSS performance standards with mere token deviations. Therefore, when districts and teachers seek to further develop their curriculum, and consider that the State has essentially adopted the NGSS, books, lesson plans, and other sources which teachers and districts will be looking for to further support their curriculum which were developed by others to be NGSS compliant, we will find the full NGSS in every detail will be right back into the classroom, complete in its materialistic and biased character. The USOE has previously pledged to reject further adoption of national standards by multiple representatives at multiple forums13. The reasons for rejecting such national standards has not diminished nor have they varied in any significance from what was offered in the April draft.

Reject the adoption of the October draft of the “Utah SEEd” standards.

Thanks,

Vincent Newmeyer

Link to comment on standards (must comment immediately. I think the deadline is November 9th):

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/SEEdReview

Link to find your board member and contact him/her:

http://elections.utah.gov/map/district-maps

Contact info for your board member:

http://schoolboard.utah.gov/board-members-2

Footnotes:

1 USOE now admits in, “Utah Science with Engineering Education (UT SEEd) Standards Release for 30-day Review,” October 8-9, 2015 http://schools.utah.gov/board/Meetings/Agenda/docs/TAB11.aspx page 7, that “Most SEEd standards remain based on” NGSS. Later in this text we will see that USOE definition of “most” means it is essentially all NGSS.

2 See paper “What? NGSS is Common Core Science???”
http://www.sciencefreedom.org/NGSS-is-Common-Core-Science.html

3 See paper “Issues With Next Generation Science Standards Proposed for Adoption in Utah and the Adoption Process”

4 See paper “Rebuttal To ‘Why the Critics of the Next Generation Science Standards are Wrong: A Position Paper'” http://www.sciencefreedom.org/Rebuttal-to-Why-the-Critics-of-the-Next-Generation-Science-Standards-are-Wrong.html

5 Youtube SLC Standards Review Meeting May 19, 2015 (the last) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=izVPsNYB6PU#t=3m56s

6 Youtube SLC Standards Review Meeting May 19, 2015 (the last) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=izVPsNYB6PU#t=3m56s

8 Utah Science with Engineering Education (UT SEEd) Standards Release for 30-day Review, October 8-9, 2015 http://schools.utah.gov/board/Meetings/Agenda/docs/TAB11.aspx page 7

9 Utah Science with Engineering Education (UT SEEd) Standards Release for 30-day Review, October 8-9, 2015 http://schools.utah.gov/board/Meetings/Agenda/docs/TAB11.aspx page 7

10 Besides the example given, you may also want to read Jonathan Wells’ article “SURVIVAL OF THE FAKEST” http://www.discovery.org/articleFiles/PDFs/survivalOfTheFakest.pdf

12 Utah Science with Engineering Education (UT SEEd) Standards Release for 30-day Review, October 8-9, 2015 http://schools.utah.gov/board/Meetings/Agenda/docs/TAB11.aspx page 7

Feds Will Control Curriculum, Competency and Credentialing

Reprinted from: http://www.returntoparentalrights.com/Blog.html?entry=feds-will-control-curriculum-competency

The federal government has absolutely no constitutional right to control curriculum, but they’re doing it anyway. In a 2011 video for the Whitehouse’s Learning Registry, Steve Midgley, the Deputy Director of Education Technology for the US Department of Education, says that the Learning Registry “makes federal learning resources easier to find, easier to access and easier to integrate into learning environments wherever they are stored.” He also admits that the Federal Communications Commission changed broadband internet regulations to get federally-sanctioned curriculum items into every child’s classroom.

Say what? Yes. You heard it right. The Whitehouse is picking winners and losers in curriculum providers. They have created an effective oligarchy over online learning and testing resources in order to make sure that the curriculum coming through your child’s school-issued iPad or computer contains the right worldview. They funded the creation of Common Education Data Standards (CEDS), gave states federal grants to expand their state longitudinal data system (see Utah’s here and here), got 300 (and counting) online learning and testing groups to create interoperable curriculum and computer-adaptive tests, and created a one-stop-shop called the Learning Registry where every child’s learning data will be tracked. This is information control, folks. And, it’s not just for K-12.

George Washington University, among many other institutions of higher ed, has jumped on the Learning Registry’s bandwagon. They are helping the federal administration (perhaps unwittingly) succeed at redefining student competencies around student behaviors, as opposed to academics. When Utahns think of competency-based education, we think of a student mastering something factual and proving competency. That’s not what the federal Learning Registry seeks. They define competencies around values, attitudes and beliefs. In other words, the more a student can think in moral relativist terms, the more “skilled” they are. Students who think “all truth is relative” will be easily malleable workers for a globally managed economy—widgets for crony business leaders.

So, how will the Whitehouse’s Learning Registry work? It will:

  1. Filter the curriculum content that reaches teachers and students
  2. Collect data on how a child thinks and what they believe
  3. Use that data to personalize online learning curriculum and adaptive testing systems (compare this to political campaigns changing the way voters vote by collecting data to create personalized marketing)
  4. Viola! A child will see America in terms of race, ethnicity, gender and sexuality—and advocate for big government solutions.

When John Marini talked about the famous movie Mr. Smith Goes to Washington written by Frank Capra, he said, “Frank Capra did not see America as many Americans do today, in terms of personal categories of identity…he understood America in terms of its political principles.”

If we want our children to be champions of liberty, including religious liberty, we need to engage our local education leaders in a discussion about who is defining “competency.” And, we cannot be naïve in thinking that we will implement competency-based education differently than the federal administration desires. If we put our plug (technology systems) into their electrical outlet (Learning Registry), we will be giving them all-power over what our children learn—and, we’ve already started plugging in. As one tech-savvy mom recently noted, “Parents need to understand that a unique student ID# will act like a social security number on steroids.

George Washington University says that they are helping the Whitehouse “create a beta version of a credentialing registry on the existing Learning Registry.” This means that the Feds are positioned, not only to control curriculum, but how colleges rate student credentials—also called “digital badges.” If this sounds like German-style education, that’s because it is.

We can’t allow the federal administration to use personally identifiable data to “personalize” learning resources for our children. It’s time for Congressional hearings into the Whitehouse’s Learning Registry—and it’s international data standards-setting partners, IMS Global and the SIF Association.

It’s also time for our local boards of education to take back what it means to have locally controlled education. Local boards should stand with parents by making sure that their district’s online curriculum and test items do not conform to federally-funded data standards.

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

For more information on how the federal administration is aligning state and district policies to internationalist goals for competency-based education, see:

• Race To The Top for Districts (RTT-D) gave priority funding to districts that would embrace personalized learning and competency-based ed. See:
http://www.ed.gov/race-top/district-competition

• Feds Give Nudge to Competency-Based Education
https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2013/03/19/feds-give-nudge-competency-based-education

• Bill Gates’ KnowledgeWorks has published two Policy Briefs with the most extensive information about how the federal administration used Race To The Top to push state and district policies towards implementing personalized-learning and competency-based ed.

Brief #1: Competency Education Series Policy – An Emerging Federal Role for Competency Education

Brief #2: Competency Education Series – Federal Innovation Competitions: A Catalyst for Competency Education

• iNACOL, KnowledgeWorks and the CCSSO (the state superintendents’ club that helped federal partners create Common Core standards), issued this report on their 2011 national Competency-Based Education Summit.

iNACOL made sure that global competency-based education policies made it into the Elementary and Secondary Education Act’s reauthorization bill. See:
http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/inacol-statement-on-esea-markup-and-recommendations-for-essential-elements-300035249.html

http://www.inacol.org/news/senates-esea-reauthorization-bill-provides-flexibility-for-innovation/