Category Archives: News

UACC Symposium – Empowering Parents – May 13

“UACC Symposium – Empowering Parents”

at UVU’s Sorenson Student Center

May 13, 2015

(Register below) (parking is available adjacent to the student center for $1/hour)

Come join Joy Pullmann from the Federalist (and formerly of the Heritage Foundation), Rod Arquette, Senator Al Jackson and his wife Juleen, and many others speaking on empowering parents. Also, come to a special showing of Tim Ballard’s documentary, The Abolitionist. Register below and please do it today because seating is limited.

8:30am -Sign In

MORNING IN-DEPTH PARENT WORKSHOPS – maximum 60 participants (UVU Classrooms in the Sorensen Student Center 206g, 206h, & 214) –

Cost to Participants- $5.00 to attend all of the workshops

9:00-12:00 Workshops – filled on a first come first served basis

Option 1 Option 2 Option 3
9:00-10:00 Common Core 101 –
Jenny Baker
The Next Frontiers: Data Collection from Birth to Death—
Joy Pullman
Principles of the Constitution-
Stacey Thornton
Laureen Simper
10:00-11:00 DATA-
Big Ocean Women
The Difference between Progressive and Effective Education –
Joy Pullman
Parental Rights-
Heather Gardner
11:00-12:00 Will national Science standards be coming to Utah?
Vince Newmeyer
SAGE Testing- Should I Opt-Out?
Wendy Hart
Getting Involved & Making a Difference- Jared Carmen

 

LUNCHEON- ACTIVIST TRAINING (Rod Arquette, KNRS Radio Host Joy Pullmann, The Federalist & Josh Daniels, Libertas Institute)- Center Stage in the Sorensen Student Center

Catered Lunch & Training- $15.00

Training only- $5.00

 

Evening Event – Empowering Parents (capacity 400) – Ragan Theatre at UVU in the Sorensen Student Center

Starting at 6:30 PM

Five Strings musical group, Joy Pullman and Senator Al & Juleen Jackson

Tim Ballard with Operation Underground and showing of The Abolitionist

 

Clicking submit at the bottom of this form will open a payment form to complete your registration. The form IS transmitting all information securely over SSL.

[wufoo username=”oaknorton” formhash=”s6b22n21vs2aqw” autoresize=”true” height=”897″ header=”show” ssl=”true”]

 

 

Who should choose school board members? The governor or the people?

Please sign this petition immediately and share this with your friends and neighbors.


[formidable id=”11″]
For further information on why partisan elections are the best system for vetting candidates, please see these resources:

Partisan School Board Election Arguments

Partisan School Board Resolution Debate

Responding to charges against partisan school board elections

The arguments against partisan elections – SB 104 S2

HB 5, “Student Success Act” turns federal strings into chains

You thought No Child Left Behind was bad…  Just wait till the feds “fix” the problem they created in the first place. Here comes the 600 page HB 5, the Student Success Act. What a nightmare. The intro to the bill states:

“To support State and local accountability for public education, protect State and local authority, inform parents of the performance of their children’s schools, and for other purposes.”

After you read the information below, you’re going to need to immediately email and call your state representative and urge him/her to oppose this bill. Here are their contact pages (Utah reps only. Other states go here: https://www.congress.gov/contact-us).

Please do this Monday morning. They will most likely be voting on this in the next couple days.

Rob Bishop – http://robbishop.house.gov/contact/zipauth.htm 202-225-0453

Chris Stewart – http://stewart.house.gov/contact/email-me 202-225-9730

Jason Chaffetz – https://chaffetz.house.gov/contact-me/email-me 202-225-7751

Mia Love – https://love.house.gov/contact/email 202-225-3011

The below information is pulled from Christel Swasey’s blog, though several other sources are available online. (Anita Hoge’s first exposing of this, Anita Hoge’s large summary on NewsWithViews, Wendy Hart’s blog)

Here are highlights with pages, sections and direct quotes:

1.  FEDERAL TAKEOVER OF STATE AUTHORITIES AND RIGHTS

Subpart 4, Section 6561 (page 564 on the pdf) says:

STATES TO RETAIN RIGHTS AND AUTHORITIES THEY DO NOT EXPRESSLY WAIVE” –How will a state “expressly waive” its authorities and rights?  –Answer from the bill: simply by having a state legislature accept federal money.

A state that acts “inconsistently with any requirement that might be imposed by the Secretary as a condition of receiving that assistance” will waive its authority because the legislature of that state would have “expressly approved that [federal] program”.  If a state’s or a parent’s rights conflicted with a requirement, too bad: the federal bill claims authority to enforce obedience from states because the states take the money.

Read: “…nor shall any authority of a State have any obligation to obey… unless the legislature…. approved that program and in so doing, have waived the state’s rights and authorities to act inconsistently with any requirement that might be imposed by the Secretary...”  So states have no obligation to obey unless they approved federally promoted programs (which the states have done in multiple ways).

As Ann Marie Banfield wrote: “What is going on here? The Secretary of Education can’t enforce any requirements under the program that would violate states’ rights UNLESS the state legislature gives its consent to participate in the ESEA, which encompasses around $25 Billion in aid to states.  Essentially, participating in the program to receive funds requires states to waive their states’ rights and those of the parent over their child if they conflict with ANY requirements of the program.”

2.  FEDERAL TAKEOVER OF PARENTAL RIGHTS

On page 567, Section 6564, we read that “…Other than the terms and conditions expressly approved by State law under the terms of this subpart,  control over public education and parental rights to control the education of their children are vested exclusively within the autonomous zone of independent authority reserved to the states and individual Americans by the United States Constitution, other than the Federal Government’s undiminishable obligation to enforce minimum Federal standards of equal protection and due process.”

By tying inalienable parental rights to the receipt of funds and federal “obligations,” the bill just claimed authority to take parental rights away, under conditions it has just defined.

Even in the statement of purpose on page 11, the bill minimizes parents and maximizes itself, by “affording parents substantial and meaningful opportunities to participate in the education of their children”.

To reduce parents to a recipient of government-granted “opportunities to participate in” the education of a child is de-parenting.  It’s far, far different from Utah’s  legal code, which states in multiple places that: “A student’s parent or guardian is the primary person responsible for the education of the student, and the state is in a secondary and supportive role to the parent or guardian.”

3.  GOVERNMENT CONTROL IN PRIVATE AND RELIGIOUS SCHOOLS  –  NEUTRALIZATION OF RELIGION 

Read pages 78-82.  It mandates that private schools:  “ensure that teachers and families of the children participate, on an equitable basis, in services and activities…  SECULAR, NEUTRAL, NONIDEOLOGICAL.—  Such educational services or other benefits, including materials and equipment, shall be secular, neutral and nonideological.

What’s a private Catholic, Jewish, Mormon, Baptist, or any other private religious school to do?  –Alter its beliefs to match mandates for altered materials, equipment and services?

This is the price we pay for “school choice”  and “backpack funding,” folks.  It’s not what they make it out to be.  Where federal money goes, federal chokeholds follow.

The federal government has no right to mandate that private schools must give services  that are secular and non-religious.  (See page 79: it includes in its definition of services: one on one counseling, mentoring, educational television, computer technology and more).

 

4.  GOVERNMENT APPOINTED MONITORS FOR PRIVATE SCHOOLS

An ombudsman, if you haven’t heard the term, is a paid position, a role in which a person investigates and mediates official complaints for a living.  This bill mandates that private schools will be assigned a state-appointed ombudsman to monitor private schools:  “The State educational agency involved shall designate an ombudsman to monitor and enforce the requirements.”

On page 82 the bill states that the LEA (school district) must consult with private school officials and must transmit results of their “agreement” to a state-appointed ombudsman.  On page 86 the federal bill allows a private school to complain to the government:  “private school official shall have the right to file a complaint with the State educational agency that the local educational agency did not engage in consultation that was meaningful and timely”.  These are private schools.  They  never, ever have had any legal mandate to report to, complain to, speak to, or even think about state or federal governments.  These are private schools; private means not public, not under government mandates.

 

5.  FEDERAL TAKEOVER OF PRIVATE SCHOOL FUNDING AND BENEFITS

On page 535, the bill slashes freedom by mandating equity for private and public schools.  “Benefits provided under this section for private school children, teachers, and other educational personnel shall be equitable in comparison to services and other benefits for public school children, teachers, and other educational personnel”.  The government has no right to command a private school to give more benefits, nor to withhold benefits, from private school teachers, staff or children.  The same page states: “Expenditures for educational services and other benefits to eligible private school children, teachers, and other service personnel shall be equal to the expenditures for participating public school children.”  The ombudsman’s job, according to page 80, is to “monitor and enforce” such “equity for private school children”.

SB 204 – Parent Rights Update – Stronger Opt Out Rights

Senator Aaron Osmond has listened to a lot of parents this past year and the sometimes horrible situations schools have put their children in forcing them to take tests they were opted out of, lying to children and telling them it was the law and they had to take it, etc… With the recent USOE memo trying to tell parents what they could or couldn’t opt their children out of, this bill is a major relief to parents. Here’s the changes being made. You can find the full text here:

http://le.utah.gov/~2015/bills/static/SB0204.html

Words that have a line through them are being removed and if it’s underlined it’s being added.

  (f) providing that scores on the tests and assessments required under Subsection (2)(a)
89     and Subsection (3) [shall] may not be considered in determining:
90          (i) a student’s academic grade for the appropriate course [and]; or
91          (ii) whether a student [shall] may advance to the next grade level.

53A-15-1401. Definitions.
132          As used in this part:
133          (1) “Individualized Education Plan” or “IEP” means a written statement, for a student
134     with a disability, that is developed, reviewed, and revised in accordance with the Individuals
135     with Disabilities Education Act, 20 U.S.C. Sec. 1400 et seq.

160          (2) An LEA shall reasonably accommodate a parent’s or guardian’s written request to
161     retain a student in kindergarten through grade 8 on grade level based on the student’s academic
162     ability or the student’s social, emotional, or physical maturity.
163          (3) An LEA shall reasonably accommodate a parent’s or guardian’s initial selection of a
164     teacher or request for a change of teacher.
165          (4) An LEA shall reasonably accommodate the request of a student’s parent or guardian
166     to visit and observe any class the student attends.
167          [(5) (a) An LEA shall reasonably accommodate a written request of a student’s parent
168     or guardian to excuse the student from attendance for a family event or visit to a health care
169     provider, without obtaining a note from the provider.]
170          [(b) An excused absence provided under Subsection (5)(a) does not diminish
171     expectations for the student’s academic performance.]
172          (5) Notwithstanding Chapter 11, Part 1, Compulsory Education Requirements, an LEA
173     shall record an excused absence for a scheduled family event or a scheduled proactive visit to a
174     health care provider if:
175          (a) the parent or guardian submits a written statement at least one school day before the
176     scheduled absence; and
177          (b) the student agrees to make up course work for school days missed for the scheduled
178     absence in accordance with LEA policy.

192          (9) (a) Upon [the] receipt of a written [request] statement of a student’s parent or
193     guardian, an LEA shall excuse the student from taking [a test that is administered statewide or
194     the National Assessment of Educational Progress.]:
195          (i) any summative, interim, or formative test that is not locally developed; or
196          (ii) any test that is federally mandated or mandated by the state under this title.
197          (b) An LEA may not:
198          (i) require a meeting as a condition of excusing a student from taking a test described
199     in Subsection (9)(a); or
200          (ii) specify the form of a written statement under Subsection (9)(a).
201          (c) A written statement to an LEA to excuse a student from taking a test under
202     Subsection (9)(a) remains in effect across multiple school years until:
203          (i) further notice from the student’s parent or guardian; or
204          (ii) the student is no longer enrolled at the LEA.
205          (d) An LEA may not reward a student for taking a test described in Subsection (9)(a).

217          (11) An LEA shall reasonably accommodate a parent’s or guardian’s request to include
218     in an Individualized Education Plan elements that the parent or guardian believes are in the best
219     interest of the child.

Second Parent Member of Utah SAGE Test Review Committee Speaks Out

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

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

SAGE Parent Review Committee Member Speaks Out

By Christine Ruiz

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

So, here’s what we did and didn’t do.

 

WE DID review all questions (about 1500 each).

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

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

 

Now the important part …

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

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

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

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

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

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

Christine Ruiz

———————————————————

state statute 53A1603

(8)

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

public education students to review all computer adaptive test questions.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

years.

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

First Parent Member of Utah SAGE Test Review Committee Speaks Out

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Christel Swasey wrote this post at:

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

**********

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Christel Swasey

Catch-up Update

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are you ready to have national science standards in UT?

Have you ever been told ‘we would NEVER adopt the national science standards’?   I have; numerous times from many elected officials.

I started to push back against the Common Core reforms in early 2012.  We warned this wasn’t simply about a set of standards.   We warned there is more coming down the pipeline.  The move to centralize and control education is moving at a rapid pace.  We warned there were national science and social study standards waiting in the wings.  We later warned there were national sex ed standards.  We warned and warned and warned.

More often than not our pleas seem to fall on deaf ears….at least with decision makers.

In September of this year I was appointed to serve on the State science standards review committee.

The committee consists of 5 parents appointed by the Senate, 5 parents appointed by the House, and 7 subject experts appointed by the board chair.  On paper that sounds like a measured and balanced approach.

The committee doesn’t have the feel of a parent committee, more like a who’s who in science committee with a couple of “regular” parents thrown in.  Arguably, they are parents too, but that wasn’t the intent of the committee.

These committees can be manipulated to pick and choose who are the chosen few to have a real say in what is happening.   The law already required parental input so I don’t feel the committee is necessary.

I know the state office was frustrated so many “anti-common core” parents were chosen and I’m concerned the USOE (UT State Office of Education) is manipulating the process.

First, they sent a list of parents they recommended as being chosen to the Senate and House.  Isn’t that sweet?

Second, prior to the meeting I was sent a link to the current science standards with the assignment to thoroughly review the standards.  I knew that the state office had already started working on new standards so why spend so much time looking at standards that are already on their way out.

Third, prior to the meeting we were also sent a pro-common core propaganda piece to help prepare for my meeting.   That really bugged.

Fourth, upon arrival at the meeting we were assigned seats.  I’ll never know for certain if our names were carefully arranged or not but it did seem to be that the “parents” were surrounded by “experts”.   I just happened be to sitting by the lead writer of the national science standards.

Fifth, two members of the “writing” committee were also on the “review” committee.  Does that even make sense?

Sixth, a good portion of the beginning of our meeting was devoted to explaining the purpose of the meeting and they made it clear the meeting was definitely NOT to talk about Common Core.  Do they realize the entire reason the committee exists is BECAUSE of Common Core?

Seventh, we were strongly encouraged not to speak to each other outside of the meeting in smaller groups and to only communicate with the entire committee because this was a “collective” effort.

Eighth, we were repeatedly encouraged NOT to blog about the meeting because that would just be awkward at our next meeting…oops.

In all seriousness, I planned on following their request because everyone was really nice and I enjoyed the conversations I had with committee members but the more I thought about the meeting and how manipulated it was the more resolve I felt to let people know.

Ninth, we spent over an hour going over the current, intended to be thrown out, standards.

At 11 AM, one hour to the close of our meeting, we finally received the draft standards and broke up into committees to discuss.  That does not leave enough time to look much at content.  The staff was going to close comments at the end of our meeting but I cited the law and asked that we have more time to submit feedback.

******Sorry for the bitter tone, everyone was very nice BUT I did feel manipulated and that bothered me.******

Now on to the standards….

The proposed standards are…….dun, dun, dun….

IDENTICAL to the Next Generation Science Standards! (NGSS)  Is anyone surprised?  Yeah, I didn’t think so.

I went to the meeting expecting to see this.

I would give you proof with a side by side comparison but in order to be able to leave the meeting with the draft copies, I had to sign a non-disclosure statement that I wouldn’t make any digital copies.  Lucky for you they’re publicly available online for your perusal and enjoyment.

Feel free to download a copy here:  http://www.nextgenscience.org/next-generation-science-standards

Currently, UT is only changing our 6-8th grade standards so look at Middle School Standards.

The “writing” committee carefully reformatted each page and only put one standard on a page instead of multiple.

Each page contain the same few basic elements.

  • The standard or Performance Expectation
  • Clarification Statement
  • Assessment Boundary
  • Cross cutting Framework

Here is an example of one page from the NGSS:

Example page out of the NGSS
Example page out of the NGSS

Now let’s take a closer look:

The red arrow points to the standard’s identity and the green box outlines exactly what the standard  or performance expectation is.

NGSS standards example 1
Click for clearer image

The green box is outlining the clarification statement.

Click for clearer image
Click for clearer image

The Assessment Boundaries are now outlined in green.

Click for clearer image
Click for clearer image

Below is a portion framework developed by the National Research Council.

Click for clearer image
Click for clearer image

From the A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas ( 2012 ):

The National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers have developed “Common Core State Standards” in mathematics and language arts, and 43 states and the District of Columbia have adopted these standards as of early 2011. The anticipation of a similar effort for science standards was a prime motivator for this NRC study and the resulting framework described in this report.

To maintain the momentum, the Carnegie Corporation commissioned the nonpartisan and nonprofit educational reform organization Achieve, Inc., to lead states in developing new science standards based on the NRC framework in this report. There is no prior commitment from multiple states to adopt such standards, so the process will be different from the Common Core process used for mathematics and language arts. But it is expected that Achieve will form partnerships with a number of states in undertaking this work and will offer multiple opportunities for public comment.

Sound familiar?  Same players, same tune…

Underneath the colorful framework boxes is listed the Common Core standards that go along with each standard.

Click for clearer image
Click for clearer image

There were some changes made in the proposed draft  and I’ll list them out generally here and will be able to get more specific at a later date.

  • UT added a Root question to help arrange the standards by topic
  • THE STANDARDS  or PERFORMANCE EXPECTATIONS ARE IDENTICAL
  • Clarification Statements- the majority are the same but the writing team did add to, delete (minimal), re-order and rephrase
  • Assessment Boundaries – some changes but very little
  • Framework – IDENTICAL

The important part is that the standards are 99.9 % the same with the exception of one word that was left out.  I’ve been communicating with the State Board of Ed and it doesn’t appear that any board member knew the national standards were being used.  Most seemed to think we were updating our old standards.

The Next Generation Science Standards were scored a C by the Fordham institute.

Fordham said that the current UT standards were clearly superior to the NGSS.  In fact there are 14 states with clearly superior standards.  If this were truly about raising achievement, those state standards would be our guide not sub-par standards with a very clear political bent.

Here’s the full review:

20130612-NGSS-Final-Review_7

In fact, Utah’s current standards are rated higher than NGSS. Why are we intent on lowering our standards?

http://edexcellence.net/publications/final-evaluation-of-NGSS.html

Citizens in Kansas are currently suing their state board of ed.  From their website:

The Complaint alleges that the implementation of NGSS “will have the effect of causing Kansas public schools to establish and endorse a non-theistic religious worldview,” in violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

Start researching now and be prepared to comment during the 90 day public comment period.

Public comment begins in December but there is no reason we can’t urge the state board to throw these out and start over.  Elections are next week, find out where the candidates stand on the Next Generation Science Standards.  Call, text, write and plead with the current state board to go back to the drawing board.  Utah students deserve better.