If you want to know what *real* school board members do, check this out. There was discussion at the August 12th school board meeting in Alpine regarding AIR, the company Utah contracted with to provide the SAGE exam. You can listen to the audio at this link.
Click at the bottom on Additional media, and go to 52 minutes on the Board Meeting audio.
That discussion prompted Dr. Judy Park at the Utah State Office of Education to write a letter to Superintendent Henshaw in ASD. This letter was sent to Dr. Park by three of the board members in ASD (and it’s shameful that the other 4 don’t understand their role as public watchdogs enough to have signed on as well). Read this and then covet our board members… :)
September 18, 2014
Dr. Judy Park
Utah State Office of Education
Dear Dr. Park,
Thank you for taking the time to address some of the issues with AIR and SAGE testing. We especially appreciate your citations of the contract. In the interest of openness and transparency, we have a point of clarification, as well as some follow-up questions.
To begin, a point of clarification. Your letter is directed to Superintendent Henshaw who communicated some of our concerns about SAGE and AIR to you. In your letter, you indicate that “False, undocumented and baseless allegations need to cease.” We wish to clarify that the concerns expressed by Dr. Henshaw were not coming from him, and, as such, your directive would not be to him but to those of us on the board and our constituents who are raising questions, based on our reading of the AIR contract with USOE. Because Dr. Henshaw reports to the Alpine School Board and not the other way around, any directive for Dr. Henshaw to rein in these ‘allegations’ from board members or constituents would be inappropriate. We can appreciate that you are troubled by this, but we would recommend that more information and more discussion would be a preferable way of resolving concerns, as opposed to suggesting that concerned representatives and their constituents simply remain silent.
So, in that spirit of openness, we have the following clarifications and follow-up questions.
We begin by addressing the sections of the AIR contract cited in your letter of August 14. It was very much appreciated because these are the same sections of the contract that we have studied. We were hopeful that there would be additional insight. Unfortunately, we did not find any assurance in the pages listed.
I-96 – I-98: This section nicely addresses the physical, network, and software security for the server and test items. However, the only reference to AIR employees, their ability to access or use any data is left to “Utah’s public records laws, FERPA, and other federal laws.” FERPA, as many know, has been modified by the US Dept of Education to allow for the sharing of data without parental knowledge or consent as long as it can be justified as an ‘educational program’. Additionally, FERPA only contains penalties for those entities receiving federal funds. Since Utah is paying directly for SAGE testing, FERPA is a meaningless law in this regard. Additionally, Utah’s public records laws appear to only address the openness of public records, but are insufficient when it comes to privacy or use of data, including that of a minor. If there are robust privacy laws in Utah’s public records laws, we would appreciate additional citations. Please cite the other federal laws that protect the privacy of our students.
I-61: Addresses the technical protocols for the data transfer, as well as encryption of passwords. Again, this doesn’t address those who are given access by AIR to the data for whatever purpose.
I-72 – I-73: Addresses the security of those contractors who will be manually scoring during the pilot testing. This addresses a particular third-party in a particular role, but not AIR as an entity or its employees, other than this particular instance.
I-85 – I-86: Addresses the issues of users and roles for the database and USOE updates. This limits the appropriate access to those of us in Utah, based on whether we are teachers, principals, board members, USOE, etc. Again, this does not address anything about AIR as an entity or its employees.
While all these security precautions are necessary, and we are grateful they are included, they do nothing to address the particular issues that were raised at the August 12, 2014 Alpine School Board Meeting. Some of our concerns are as follows:
1) Prior to the Addendum from March 2014 (for which we are grateful) there was no prohibition on sharing data with a third-party. As indicated, the changes to FERPA would allow AIR to legally share data with a third-party as long as that sharing was for ‘an educational program’ without parental knowledge or consent. As such, the addendum now allows for that sharing only with the USOE’s consent. We are still concerned that parents are not asked to give consent and may not have knowledge of their student’s data being shared.
2) AIR itself is a research firm dedicated to conducting and applying the best behavioral and social science research and evaluation. As such, they are involved with data collection and evaluation. In the contract and addendum cited, there is nothing that prohibits how AIR or its subsidiary organizations may use, query, analyze or access any or all student data from the SAGE tests in Utah. They would have access to many data sets from many entities. They also would have multiple on-going research projects. There is no prohibition on what inquiries, research or analysis can be done on the data from SAGE testing. As long as AIR does not profit from the data or share with a third-party without the USOE’s consent, the data is managed by AIR and available for access. What are the methods in place to prevent AIR from accessing the data for additional research or analysis? AIR does not need to share the data with a third-party to violate the privacy of a student or a set of students. However, since they control and manage the database, there is nothing that would prevent this access.
3) There are no prohibitions in the contract regarding behavioral data. While we realize Mr. Cohen has said the contract does not call for gathering or evaluating behavioral data, and that AIR is not inclined to do so, there are, again, no prohibitions or penalties associated with gathering or evaluating behavioral data. State law allows for the use of behavioral data in the year-end testing. So, there are no legal prohibitions on the use or collection of behavioral data. Since behavioral research is the primary mission of AIR, as indicated by its mission statement, it is a concern for parents. If AIR has no desire to collect behavioral data as part of the SAGE testing, it should state so explicitly in a legally-binding manner.
4) Many parents have, legally, opted out of SAGE testing for their students. As such, why is AIR receiving any information on these students? Parents feel it is a grave violation of their trust by USOE that any data the USOE has received from the schools can be input into the SAGE database, not to mention the State Longitudinal Database System (SLDS). There must, at a minimum, be a way for parents to opt out of all sharing of their student’s data with AIR and the SLDS. At what point, if any, will student data be purged from the AIR database? What is the method for demonstrating the data has been properly purged?
Additionally, we appreciate the response of Mr. Cohen to our concerns. Based on his response, we have the following questions.
1) Please list the “express purposes” for which the release, sharing or sale of data is not prohibited, per contract.
2) What third parties are AIR “explicitly permitted by the State of Utah” to provide data to?
3) What research has AIR been requested and directed by the Utah State Office of Education to conduct?
4) What entity (or entities) has AIR been authorized by the State of Utah to release data to?
5) Please list the source of the contract that states that AIR is prohibited from releasing data to the federal government.
6) What entity (or entities) have been designated by the USOE to receive data from AIR?
7) The memo does not address companies owned or operated by AIR, which would not be considered third-parties. Please state, per contract, where AIR does not share data within related party entities.
Finally, we have the following questions related to the validity and reliability of the SAGE testing. We understand that this information would not be protected by copyright, and therefore, could be provided to us, as elected officials.
1. Normative Sample Details (who took the test)
2. Coefficient Alpha Reliability
3. Content description Validity
4. Differential Item Function Analysis
5. Criterion Prediction Validity
6. Construct Identification Validity
7. Other types of validity scales/constructs that are applicable only to CAT test designs
We appreciate the opportunity to discuss this more in the future. As those who are responsible to the parents of this district, we feel it is imperative that our concerns are addressed. And, when all is said and done, it is most important that parents have the opportunity to protect whatever student information they feel is necessary. Just because parents decide to educate their children in our public school system does not mean that we, as a state government, are entitled to whatever information about their children we feel in necessary. Parents are still, by state law, primarily responsible for the education and the upbringing of their children. As such, their wishes and their need to protect information on their students is paramount. As members of the Alpine School Board, we must represent the different views and concerns of all the parents in our area. For those who have no concerns, then you may proceed as usual. For those who do have concerns, it is incumbent on us to raise these questions and to obtain the most accurate information possible.
Thank you for your time, and we look forward to more information in the future.
Brian Halladay, ASD4
Wendy Hart, ASD2
Paula Hill, ASD1
Rep. Fawson hosted a debate last week in Ogden on Common Core. Speaking against Common Core were Alisa Ellis, Wendy Hart, and Autumn Cook. Thank you Rep. Fawson for putting this together to allow both sides to present their arguments.
Look at the chart at what’s happened in 1 year. The percentage of teachers opposing Common Core has gone from 12% to 40%. Where will this be by next year as more teachers finally see the writing on the wall of what all the federal reforms will mean for them, besides just CCSS.
Thank you to those who rapidly signed the letter to the board and especially those who came out to the protest. In a 24 hour period from when I posted the letter to when I had to send off the letter, we had received 2,107 signatures from Utahns and I removed dozens of non-Utah signatures including columnist Michelle Malkin’s signature.
The letter with signatures was emailed to board members late Thursday night and a physical copy was delivered to the board on Friday morning at their board meeting. The text of the letter is below. I’ll refrain from posting all the signatures below, but a few hundred more continued to sign after sending off the letter. We will be posting the speeches from the board meeting here after compiling them.
Christel Swasey posted a brief report on the protest at the state school board including pictures and a video, so I’m not going to recreate the wheel. Here’s a link.
I will duplicate her links to news stories though.
SALT LAKE TRIBUNE – http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/news/58276195-78/utah-waiver-board-state.html.csp
So what happened? They signed the waiver but changed the assurances. This isn’t the ideal outcome we wanted, but it’s a compromise that under the circumstances will set up an interesting showdown. Please read this link for a post by Jefferson Moss on the state board, and scroll down to read Heather Groom’s (also on the board) comment as well. You may have to join the group first to see it.
Here is the letter to the state board that was signed by so many people.
To the Members of the Utah State Board of Education:
We the undersigned are among the many Utahns who value local control of education and do not want the Utah State Board of Education to renew the ESEA/NCLB waiver.
No Child Left Behind (NCLB) is a failed law. It failed schools, it failed teachers, and it failed children.
To receive a waiver from NCLB, Utah agreed to option A, which required Utah to show proof that we had adopted Common Core. In other words, the state was coerced into agreeing to a reform package that exerts a far greater control over our state education system than NCLB.
The waiver should not be renewed as it solidifies and gives credence to the pattern of federal involvement in Utah’s education system.
The U.S. Constitution gives the federal government no opportunity to be involved in Utah education. By renewing the waiver Utah will be obligated to continue with their Common Core commitment to the Federal Government which is in violation of both the federal and state constitutions. Trading one bad government mandate for an even worse government mandate is irresponsible. It is the State Board’s responsibility to work to reduce federal involvement in education and promote general state control, and pass everything possible down to the local school and district level that should appropriately be governed there.
Utah law states that we can and shall be flexible with our funding to utilize it to meet state goals and objectives over federal goals and objectives.
Concerns that there MAY be a reduction in federal funds affecting Title I schools should not stop the board from doing the right thing. It will be the responsibility of the legislature and the Governor to make sure that the Title I schools have the necessary funding.
Please do not sign the waiver.
Earlier in the week I sent this brief letter to the board.
In 2005, the Utah legislature unanimously passed HB 135, a bill by Senator Margaret Dayton, that specifically gives Utah the ability to resolve NCLB funding control issues by giving Utah the flexibility to [first prioritize funding to meet] “state goals, objectives, program needs, and accountability systems” and [give second priority] “to implementing federal goals, objectives, program needs, and accountability systems that do not directly and simultaneously advance state goals, objectives, program needs, and accountability systems.”
The law further states that “school officials shall interpret the provisions of federal programs in the best interest of students in this state; maximize local control and flexibility; minimize additional state resources that are diverted to implement federal programs beyond the federal monies that are provided to fund the programs; request changes to federal educational programs, especially programs that are underfunded or provide conflicts with other state or federal programs, including: federal statutes…”
In other words, Utah law states we can and shall be flexible with our funding and utilize it to meet state goals and objectives over federal goals and objectives.
Signing the waiver violates Utah law by requiring that we continue Common Core which is a federal entanglement.
Submit your own original t-shirt design and we’ll post it in our Facebook T-shirt design contest. The t-shirt designs with the most “likes” will be printed and distributed for active citizens like yourself to wear at political events, and show support and unity for local control of education. The winners will receive a free T-shirt printed with their winning design.
What you should know:
- Your submissions must be submitted by Tuesday July 29, 11:59 pm to qualify.
- Voting will begin on Wednesday morning and will end at Noon on Thursday.
- Submit a design for both the front and the back of the shirt. Please label these, front or back, in the filename of your submission.
- The winning designs will be printed on a GREEN shirt, please coordinate your colors to match.
- Submit your design without the green background of the shirt showing. The green background portion of your design should be transparent so it is ready to send to the printer. (Jpeg files do not support a transparent background.)
- We will add a green background to your design so voters can see what it will look like on the shirt.
- Your design must promote the values of Utahns Against Common Core. Any designs that do not reflect our values or mission, are irrelevant to the purpose of this contest, or are not submitted according to the directions listed on this website will be disqualified.
- By submitting your design you are donating the design and all rights and privileges pertaining to it, intellectual or otherwise, to Utahns Against Common Core and you agree to the terms and conditions listed on this website. This includes the right to edit your design.
- It is your responsibility to make sure you use your own original design, and not steal the intellectual work of others.
- Please submit your design as an attachment to email@example.com. Include your Full Name, Mailing Address, Email address and Phone number in the body of the email. Make sure the file names of your submission state whether it is the front or back of the shirt.
The T-shirt Design Contest is up NOW! Look through this Facebook photo album and like your favorite designs. The Design with the most likes by Noon, Thursday, July 31st will be printed and distributed.
We need to capitalize on the energy following last night’s “We Will Not Conform” event. Let’s work together to strategize and organize to kick Common Core and all it’s entanglements to the curb! In the comment section below post your ideas on how to take action now and organize locally. Here are some ideas to start:
- Make T-shirts
- Yard Signs
- T-shirt design contest
- Hold an organizing convention
- Organize by District
- Radio Ads
Comments will only be approved if they’re positive, constructive, and don’t involve name calling.
Yesterday morning, Governor Herbert made a major announcement about Common Core. He’s called for the Utah A.G. to do a legal review in regards to potential federal intrusion in the standards process, a review of the standards by Utah educators, and asking for parental feedback on the standards. I was contacted by Ben Wood at the Deseret News and asked for a comment. Here’s what I sent Ben after reviewing the Governor’s speech and press release (http://www.utah.gov/governor/news_media/article.html?article=10183) which included comments about SAGE testing and data collection.
Oak: “I applaud the Governor for initiating a review of the situation. There are a number of things I think have been missing from the discussion on Common Core, and I welcome a review by the AG’s office, particularly if it extends to just how much control of Utah’s education system policies the federal government controls. I agree with the Governor that local control is paramount, and unfortunately, what the state office of education has done is consistently tried to turn this discussion into one about the standards, instead of where our real issues lie with the major reforms we adopted as part of the “Common Core state standards” package, which anyone can read if they take the time to go to the source documents. There are some significant issues with the standards, but they aren’t on a “line item” basis. Alignment with other states is now allowing federal organizations like the College Board to direct curriculum based on how they control college tests like the ACT and SAT. There are some significant challenges we face and it is paramount that we do everything in our power to shift to true local control where parents, teachers, and students have maximum control over the educational pathway our children pursue.”
What should happen is we get the state auditor to investigate all the flows of money as well as the attorney general investigating all the reforms and all aspects of federal control in Utah’s education system.
To read Ben’s article, click here:
To read the governor’s speech, click here:
A few days ago, UEA President Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh sent this letter to UEA teachers all over Utah encouraging them to immediately write legislators and the governor that a “small, vocal minority” (isn’t it always???) is trying to abandon Utah’s core standards. No, actually we’re trying to run away from Common Core. I love how she emails them on their school email accounts but then tells them to email legislators and the governor from a non-school computer and email account. :)
It’s especially interesting that she would send this out after receiving so many letters from teachers who were having extremely negative experiences with the Common Core SAGE tests noting “Developmentally inappropriate and despairing prompts that were given.”
Please pass this on to your legislators as to why they got a handful of emails the past few days and reiterate that you are not part of a small, vocal minority, but a growing and sizable part of the population.
Last night I made this presentation in Draper. One of the things we need to get away from when talking about Common Core, is the standards. People are getting bogged down in the standards and educrats keep asking parents if they’ve read the standards and which standards they disagree with. These are pointless questions. IT’S NOT ABOUT THE STANDARDS THEMSELVES. Well, maybe 10%. They’re not great standards and several states had superior standards before Common Core. The real problem is the loss of privacy, data collection, loss of sovereignty, and a centuries old agenda that has been pushed at us to destroy the family, destroy religion, and embrace moral relativism. In this presentation I attempt to pull back the curtain and expose that agenda. In one hour there just isn’t time to do justice to this topic. There are so many statements and so much evidence of this it just can’t be fit in, but I do hope this presentation gives you a strong enough witness that Common Core is just the latest idea in the culture war we are engaged in, and isn’t the true problem at the root. We need to get back to local control and sever the ties that bind us to these people.
Here is a pdf file of the presentation.
Awesome News… Yesterday, Gov. Fallin in Oklahoma signed a bill to repeal Common Core. This is major news as she is the current chair of the National Governor’s Association that claims to have co-created CCSS (Common Core State Standards) with the CCSSO (Council of Chief State School Officers – ie. state superintendents). Thank you for those of you that wrote the governor and helped push her in this direction.
Governor Fallin stated:
“We are capable of developing our own Oklahoma academic standards that will be better than Common Core … What should have been a bipartisan policy is now widely regarded asthe president’s plan to establish federal control of curricula, testing and teaching strategies.
“We cannot ignore the widespread concern of citizens, parents, educators and legislators who have expressed fear that adopting Common Core gives up local control of Oklahoma’s public schools…
“For that reason I am signing HB 3399 to repeal and replace Common Core with Oklahoma designed and implemented education standards… They must raise the bar – beyond what Common Core offers… I also ‘get it’ that Oklahoma standards must be exceptional, so when businesses and military families move to Oklahoma they can rest assured knowing their children will get a great education.
… While those new standards are being written, the state standards for English and math will revert to the Oklahoma Priority Academic Student Skills (PASS) standards used from 2003 to 2010. “
Also, Gov. Nikki Haley has just signed a bill to get South Carolina out of Common Core.
Unlike Indiana which may just be getting a rebranding of CCSS with a few tweaks, OK and SC both have language in their bills to prevent this.
Other states with positive news:
North Carolina and Missouri’s legislatures have both passed bills to repeal Common Core which now await the signature of their governors. Where is Governor Herbert? Making sure his state school board selection committee weeds out candidates that have any concerns over Common Core…
We are making progress and we will get there. The ball is rolling and momentum just keeps building. Maybe this will finally be the straw that breaks the back of the US DOEd and neuters them so states are not bound by federal controls.