Reference

Organize Yourselves

I got an email yesterday from Jenny Baker in Southern Utah where she has organized a parent rights committee. She agreed to let me publish her email to me to help inspire other groups to form in various school districts around the state. If you want to form a group, you can also advertise for support in our Facebook group to find people in your area. Organizing by school district is a great idea, or even your county. Jenny’s group is off to a great start and we wish them much success in accomplishing their goals.

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These are the notes of the May 13th Washington County for Parental Rights committee meeting

 

12 members attended the school board meeting today:

Amy Drawe did a great job in her 3 minute talking time.  She asked 1-how many times they will do the sage tests next year, 2- if teachers have been asked to not talk about CommonCore.  3- where we can find out where the school board candidates stand on CC. 4- she asked for a raise of hands who does/ does not support it.

The school board claimed to have no control over CC.  Superintendent Burgeson recited the talking points that we have heard before.  They basically ignores all of her questions.  BUT….we did meet a few new members that we are now working with!

 

The 7:00 meeting went as follows:

These goals were accepted by the body

 

1- 25% opt out rate in all schools by the first day of the 2014-2015 school year.

2-work with school boards throughout summer to get opt out policies in place before the school year begins.

3- only anti-CC candidates winning in this upcoming election.

4- Have all elected officials (from Washington County) against CC before legislative sessions start next January.

5- create a teachers advocacy group.

6- Teach parents that they are great parents with great kids no matter what the testing says. (Especially for younger moms and Hispanic communities)

7- Get homeschool groups to help other moms know how to homeschool and organize homeschool groups.
(It was decided that our talking points need to be about strengthening parents, asking questions to get them to ask questions (eg. How did your child feel about the sage tests?  Did you know that teachers and parents will not see the tests?  How are students and teachers supposed to improve if they can’t see the tests? Why do we need the tests then?).  OUR JOB IS TO EMPOWER PARENTS AND LET THEM KNOW THAT THEIR CHILD’S EDUCATION IS THEIR RESPONSIBILITY!

 

The following committees were discussed and chairmen were appointed.

(Minutes in parentheses)

 

Proposed committees:

1-Publicity Committee- (Kristine Wagner will talk with Kate and Bryan to fill this opening)

a-social media updates

b- write op ed pieces for news media

c- make media connections

d- organize a committee

 

2- School boards and administrators Committee-(will Amy Drawe, Tanya Sutterfield and or Amy Chase chair this,  any other volunteers?)

a- representing group at school board meetings.

(Currently, Durfey Supports CC, Seegmiller has concerns, Hesson supports, Christiansen opposes, Holloway supports—we need to educate them!)

b- instructing others on how to talk with administrators & school board

c- fact check and rebuttal of material sent from the school

d- organize a committee. (Get a question and answer meeting arranged for new candidates)
3- Constitutional Committee-(Kristine Wagner-chairman,  can Brent Hall help?)

a- contact delegates and candidates and report on how they stand (Kristine will make a plan for us to help  anti-CC delegates win the primaries  on June 24)

b- instruct others on contacting public representatives

c- educate politicians

d- organize a political committee
4- Home school/private schools Committee-(Ann & Eric Grob, Karen Stead and Marta Harr to chair.   They will get home school info on our blog.)

a- educate those outside of system to see the problems and work with us.

b- help board see their needs.

c- organize a home school committee
5- Teachers Committee- (Michelle Boulter, Teresa Lindquist, Kristine Wagner will ask Nancy ? To chair)

a- find out how we can help teachers. Be their advocate. (Work w/lawyer?)*

b- develop ways to keep them from being fired for speaking out.

c- educate teachers on Common Core

d- organize a teachers committee
6- Education Committee- (Michelle Boulter and Teresa Lindquist to chair).

a- arrange classes and guest speakers (once a month- in different areas of the community). (They will start a blog)

b- gather talking points and other educational material and distribute.

c- keep board up to date on all new information (laws, bills, etc.)

d- organize an education committee
7- Community Committee-(Jenny Baker, Donna Williams to chair)

a- work with civic groups(eg. Wash Co republican women lunch this week) to raise awareness

b- seek out other groups to combine efforts

c- work with other groups in Utah.

d- organize a committee
Proposed area representatives.  (Let me know if changes need to be made)

Santa Clara/Ivins- Tanya Sutterfield

Hurricane/LaVerkin-  Amy Drawe

Washington Fields- Kristine Wagner

Washington- Jared and Teresa Lindquist

Bloomington- Marta Harr

St. George proper/Green Valley- Jenny Baker

Hispanic Community- (Holly Wilkinson will ask her friend)

Little Valley- Michelle Boulter

 

Next meeting is scheduled for Thursday, May 29 at 7:00 PM at Jenny Baker’s home 1039 S. 1080 W. St. George (on Indian Hills Drive). All who wish to help this cause are invited.

*for those who could not attend:  feel free to sign up for a committee.  And come to the next meeting!!  Bring a friend!

Here are a few resources the board asked for:

Utahnsagainstcommoncore.com

Books:  “The story killers” by Terrance O. Moore. “Conform” by Glenn Beck

Thank you for all of your hard work!  I am so excited about the plans that have been made and for the overwhelming support for our cause!

Call if you have questions!

Jenny Baker

435-229-9720

Sevenvoices@live.com

Letter to a State Senator explaining Common Core’s Scope

In a recent email exchange with a senator, I responded to a couple questions which I thought I’d post here for others to read as well. He stated he was in agreement that we need to get rid of Common Core, but asked about solutions. This was my letter to him.

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I’m providing you some links which I truly hope you will read and grasp a sense of the scope of the problem we are facing. The education establishment really has their heads in the sand and refuses to make the obvious connections. They don’t mind federal control as long as they get that money. We have to get off federal money.

On your item 2, Common Core isn’t a curriculum. It’s an agenda. I don’t think many people fully grasp this. If you were going to test a theory by changing something in a system, you would, under scientific principles, change one variable and hold the rest constant so you could measure the change. That’s the intelligent thing to do. If you were to change everything in a system including the way you measure performance, it would be meaningless. Under Common Core, they changed the standards, the curriculum, and they’ve also completely changed the testing both within schools (SAGE) and for college prep, David Coleman the president of the College Board and architect of Common Core has now changed the ACT, SAT, AP, and GED tests to align with Common Core. There is no possible way to measure the positives, or the negatives of what Common Core is inflicting on our children. It’s a giant psychological experiment that was never piloted anywhere. Common Core covers standards, assessments, database tracking of children from preschool into the workforce, highly effective teacher “redistribution” to “low performing” schools, privacy loosening, teacher punishing, etc… The list goes on.

I strongly encourage you to read these articles so you understand the scope of what we’re dealing with.

http://www.utahnsagainstcommoncore.com/just-minimum-standards-or-a-national-coffle/ (especially watch the video clip of Bill Gates, the funder of Common Core. You may not know that Microsoft signed an agreement with UNESCO in 2004 to create a global education system. 10 years later Gates has spent $300 million on Common Core and much more globally to create this system.)

https://whatiscommoncore.wordpress.com/2013/11/25/7-links-to-evidence-of-federal-control-of-common-core/

You ask about curriculum… Common Core was designed and collaborated on by the big players like Pearson, McGraw-Hill, etc… Common Core was rushed to the states before curriculum could be developed by other providers and as a result, everyone had to scramble and buy what a handful of major companies were ready for. They are being enriched with billions of dollars. Total boondoggle.

You bring up the notion that our students were mediocre and this is a lie that the state office tells in order to fit their circumstances. One minute it’s “we’re the lowest funded state but look at the awesome results we get,” and the next it’s, “our standards were so bad before Common Core that we just had to do something.” The people that play this game are liars.

In 2006 I succeeded with others in getting the legislature to pressure the USOE and state sup to redo our math standards. They fought this even though our math standards were D rated. In 2007, the new standards were given an A- and implemented in 2008-09 school year. They were a huge improvement. Keep in mind the USOE fought the change and gave multiple reasons why we shouldn’t change. In 2010, just 2 years into the new standards, Common Core comes out and they jump on board before the new standards had even been released. Why? They had a chance to get some Race to the Top money. To apply, they simply had to adopt the standards before they’d been piloted anywhere. So they did…2 days after the final draft of the standards came out. Pure idiocy. The math standards only go completely through algebra 2 because the people who made the standards testified they weren’t to prepare students for selective colleges, but non-selective (ie. 2 year and lower tier 4 year colleges). Common Core standards are truly minimal standards, but now they’ve tied high stakes tests to them so teachers are scrambling to ONLY teach what’s going to be on the test. Our children will NEVER excel under Common Core. Math implementation is a disaster because they’re using constructivist approaches to math which pretty much confuses both the student and the teacher (and the parents who try to help them). Further, because Utah adopted math in the integrated fashion instead of discrete years of math, we’ve now pushed algebra 1 completion to 9th grade for most students where it was in 8th grade under our 2007 standards. How is that an improvement? Now most kids can’t get to calculus unless they entered the honors track in 7th grade. In English, they’ve reduced literature to 50% of the reading assignments and the other 50% is informational texts like EPA reports (one example they cite). I could go on and on here but let me get to the solution. Here are two posts that outline the highest quality ELA standards available, and on math, we can either return to our 2007 standards or adopt someone else’s that is clearly superior to Common Core, such as CA’s which was great, and since the state was so big, textbook publishers actually wrote curriculum specifically for the state, so we could acquire some really good textbooks written specifically for the standards.

http://www.utahnsagainstcommoncore.com/free-english-success-standards-for-utah/

http://www.utahnsagainstcommoncore.com/a-common-core-replacement-plan/

I realize I’m giving you a good bit of homework here and I truly hope you will read it. If there’s one more thing I would like you to know about which I think would have more effect on education in Utah than many things, please watch the 6 minute video I made here:

http://www.agencybasededucation.org/ending-compulsory-education/

Partisan School Board Election Arguments

In an effort to assist people in their arguments in favor of partisan school board elections for Utah boards, this page contains a list of resources which will help explain what this is and why it is necessary.

Partisan school board elections means the political parties vet their own candidates to find the best qualified individual for an office, using the excellent Utah caucus system where local neighborhoods elect delegates to represent them and ask tough questions to find out the positions of the candidates. Those party candidates then go on the ballot as the best candidate a party has to offer up against competing party candidates. The immediate primary benefit is to eliminate special interest money because instead of a well-funded candidate marketing to the masses through signs and media messages, delegates attend multiple meetings where they can ask probing questions about a candidates’ background, vision, experience, reasons for running, etc… Some candidates who aren’t well known can rise to the top here because money is not nearly as big a factor as in a primary or general election. Delegates make an informed decision and commit themselves to hours of research work whereas even the voting public typically doesn’t even know who their school board member is.

The reason this resolution came up is because it is difficult to overcome the power of the single education party which runs their candidates under the radar by endorsing through their network individuals for office, whereas there is no competing party to challenge them. The education establishment welcomes federal control of education as you’ll see in primary source documents below. They have embraced Common Core and shut out all candidates from serving on the state school board who oppose Common Core. The only organizations large enough to challenge the status quo are the political parties. Some fear that that means someone will walk into a booth and blindly check the box for all [insert your political party] and not consider others running for that position. This will certainly happen, but at least they will know that the candidates should have a philosophical alignment with them and not see a couple names presented that they have no clue who those people are and what they stand for and then randomly vote in an effort to “do their civic duty.”

Here are resources which I encourage you to read and share with others.

 

Why is the system broken? How are state board members elected?

State board members aren’t really elected. They are selected by a committee of the Governor’s appointees and they reduce the field down to 3 candidates by asking for responses on 5-6 questions and then a 10 minute interview. Then the Governor reviews those 3 candidates and crosses off the name of one more individual, and the 2 remaining candidates go on the ballot. Contrast this to the hours of vetting that happens with our caucus/delegate system which allows candidates to explain their views and principles in depth to locally elected representatives, and make the case as to why they are the best candidate.

http://www.utahnsagainstcommoncore.com/the-desperate-utah-state-school-board/

http://libertasutah.org/op-eds/state-school-board-needs-election-not-selection/

 

Does the education establishment have power to influence elections? Yes

http://www.utahsrepublic.org/more-reasons-for-partisan-school-board-elections/ (Nicole Toomey Davis’ story of how she made it onto the ballot unsupported by any political party, while her opponent had tremendous support from the education establishment “party”. Nicole was defeated.)

 

Were people eliminated from the state board race due to opposing Common Core? Yes

http://libertasutah.org/interview/state-school-board-candidate-stopped-in-her-tracks/ (This is Kim Kehrer’s story. The candidate “selection” committee asked candidates for their views on Common Core. Kim was eliminated after expressing concerns based on her own research. The entire state school board is pro-Common Core and vetted to ensure that view. The governor is going to head the NGA (National Governor’s Association) next year and the NGA and CCSSO (Council of Chief State School Officers) created Common Core so he certainly doesn’t want to be the state that rocks the boat on Common Core at this point.

 

Does the Utah education establishment welcome federal control? Yes

Utah submitted a signed Memorandum of Understanding was in 2009 by then Governor Huntsman and State Superintendent Patti Harrington, to begin the process of participating in Common Core and contains an entire paragraph they had to acknowledge titled “Federal Role” in education. This is completely unconstitutional but they signed this document in violation of their oaths of office to uphold the U.S. and Utah Constitutions. Read the document here:

http://utahnsagainstcommoncore.com/utahs-memorandum-of-misunderstanding/

 

Why partisan school board elections at the district level?

Because Utah’s school districts are so massive, the public cannot know the details about who is running. There is tremendous apathy about these incredibly important elections. Partisan elections let hundreds of delegates get involved and vet these candidates. Utah is called the best managed state because we let delegates vet most candidates. We should use the same process and get the best managed education system as well. This post contains over a dozen reasons for partisan elections and also shows the tremendous confusion non-partisan candidates can cause the voting public through their campaigning efforts.

http://www.utahsrepublic.org/the-need-for-partisan-school-board-elections-in-utah/

 

I heard that the legislature rejected Rep. Brian Greene’s Partisan school board election bill. Why?

The education establishment rallied their forces and sent a letter to all their members asking them to oppose this bill which would disrupt the status quo (which involves their welcoming of federal control (see above)). This post contains the letter from Utah School Boards Association Associate Directory Patti Harrington which went out statewide to influence this vote. The second link contains a letter from two senior officials at the Utah State Office of Education (Diana Suddreth and Syd Dickson) sent out statewide decrying this bill that said, “This bill essentially gives more power to parents over curriculum standards, would prohibit us from adopting any national standards.” Who wants local control again?

http://www.utahnsagainstcommoncore.com/blatant-political-indoctrination-in-4th-grade-utah-classroom/

http://www.utahnsagainstcommoncore.com/usoe-wants-national-standards-limits-to-parental-powers/

 

Why did you run a resolution for partisan school board elections? What did it say?

Because delegates don’t get donations and political support from special interest groups like the state education establishment. They are truly grassroots and deserved a chance to dig into the issue and make an informed decision. This also contains Patti Harrington’s plea to delegates to not vote for this resolution.

http://www.utahnsagainstcommoncore.com/state-gop-resolution-on-partisan-school-board-elections/

 

What were the opposing arguments made against this resolution?

Doug Wright, talk show host on KSL, came out against this resolution and invited Patti Harrington from the USBA, and Mark Mickelson the executive director from the UEA onto his show. I have transcribed their arguments on this post along with my rebuttals. We did have some commonality. All three of them acknowledged that the current election system for state board members is broken. :)

http://www.utahnsagainstcommoncore.com/responding-to-charges-against-partisan-school-board-elections/

 

You made speeches at the convention that stated certain things as factual. What are the links to those items?

Among the statements are the dramatic increase in education spending without results, based on recent Cato Institute research, Utah’s superior caucus and delegate system, federal grants that five Utah school districts applied to for money bypassing all state protections and opening themselves to direct federal strings/influence, a letter from two state office of education officials to educators around the state lamenting that if Rep. Greene’s partisan school board election bill passed it would give more power to parents and prevent them from adopting national standards, and Utah’s Memorandum of Understanding (noted specifically above) that acknowledged an unconstitutional federal role in Utah education.

http://www.utahnsagainstcommoncore.com/partisan-school-board-elections-resolution-passes/

 

What other reasons are there for partisan school board elections?

Rep. Brian Greene has shared these points:

1) Currently, the NEA, UEA, PTA, etc… control school boards. Non-partisan elections are their best option to continue to be the controlling influence.

2) It’s hypocritical that these organizations allege partisan elections will result in education being managed by political party leadership, but have no problem with their own exclusive control of education.

3) Concerns about political parties controlling education policy are unfounded. Rep. Greene stated that in two sessions in the legislature, he has never had party leadership demand he vote a certain way, or even pressured him to support a particular position. He is not aware of any such pressure being applied to his colleagues.

4) Partisan elections provide a more level playing field where competing interests can be heard.

5) We are currently in an epic battle to save our caucus/convention system and the primary arguments are that the current system neutralizes the control of big money. If we don’t use that system here, the big money of the NEA, UEA, and National PTA, will control our primaries.

 

Dr. Duke Pesta on Common Core

Dr. Duke Pesta is a professor of English at the University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh and the Academic Director of FreedomProject Education. In this 2 hour speech, he outlines how Common Core threatens to further undermine, weaken, and centralize public and private education in our country.

A Mom’s Reply to the State Superintendent on Why Opting Out of SAGE Tests

Whitne Strain opted her children out of SAGE tests and spoke with the press about it. Afterward, State Superintendent Menlove contacted her and asked why she opted-out. This was her reply.

 

Dear Dr. Menlove,
Thank you for asking why I chose to opt out my child.  I am happy to share.
First, I would like to assure you that my husband and I didn’t come to this decision lightly.  I learned about Common Core and all of its related facets a year ago.  I have read articles almost daily.  I regularly read and listen to posts by Arne Duncan and David Coleman, major players in national education.  I read your website.  I went to the CAT demonstrations by the board last year.  I actually think the testing modality is brilliant to assess the level of knowledge of participants.
My first reason for opting out is the morality of assessment use on children.  Twenty years ago, I worked for Pace Membership Warehouses in their human resources department as a behavioral interviewer before it was sold to Sam’s Club.  I was responsible for hiring Warehouse Directors, the highest paid position outside of corporate.  Assessments such as the CPI and Meyers-Briggs were the rage back then.  We collected astoundingly personal information on our candidates based on the way they answered questions.  We created profiles on them and made decisions on who to interview based on their answers.  Assessments are only appropriate in my opinion for job interviews or possible college entrance.  Even then, the potential participants can choose whether they wish to go through the process to gain an interview or search elsewhere for employment; whereas, our children can’t.
Second, I question the morality of evaluating a teacher on results they can’t see.  And I lament the loss of academic freedom to expound and create lessons.  The pressure of high stakes testing will take its toll. Teachers all have unique gifts which they bring to the table.  They come to education because they love children.  I fear that the more confined they become in their substance and approach due to the pressure to keep their job based on testing, the more we could lose the best, most creative, most loving teachers.
Lastly, it is an issue of trust.  I trust my local community with my child’s information.  While I recognize we are still being told that our information is only placed in our state SLDS system, I do not have faith that the Federal Government will not at some future time use its will to access SLDS..  Arne Duncan has made it clear that this is his goal.  He wants ALL the data.  What contributes to this lack of trust?  Daily, I read of Federal Government overreach and violation of the Constitution whether it be data collection by the NSA, a loosely created national police force by DHS, or the most horrific violation of civil rights we’ve seen in a decade, the current circumstances of Justina Pelletier of Massachusetts.  Information is power.  Information in corrupt hands leads to suffering.  I’m a student of history.   We have a plethora of examples of abuse of power using information just from the last century.  Hence, I am doing everything in my power now to reduce the amount and kind of information collected on my child for his protection in the future.  That is why I said what I did about his future in my first request.
We are a well-educated family.  My husband I and were both publicly educated and we both have bachelors degrees.  I own two businesses and he is a commercial airline pilot.
I hope you wlll find this information helpful in some way.  Thank you for helping make it possible for my child to opt-out without local repercussion and for protecting the school and teachers with SB 122.  Obviously, our collective hands are tied regarding federal money and federal regulations..  It is my hope that someday as a society, we will stop seeing education as workforce training and job placement and take it back to pure local curriculum and standard creation, pure academics and family primacy in the decision of a child’s career.
A little long winded.  Thank you, again, for asking.  It is nice to have the opportunity to be heard.

Respectfully
Whitne Strain

Common Core – A Failed Idea Newly Cloaked in the Robes of Good Intentions

We received this excellent letter from Alma and are publishing it. I have bolded a few sentences in the letter to emphasize them.

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ghana-flagMy name is Alma Ohene-Opare, an alumnus of BYU and a native of Accra, Ghana. Over the past few months, I have followed with much amusement, the nationwide debate for or against the adoption and implementation of the Common Core standards. The arguments have been fierce and passionate on both sides and seem to stem from a universal desire to raise the quality of education in America. The desire is noble. However, this noble desire will not compensate for or mitigate the empirically documentable effects of the failed policy being proposed.

Common Core may be new to America, but to me and the thousands who have migrated to the United States to seek better educational opportunities, it is in large part the reason we came here. If you are wondering what qualifies me to make the assertions I will make in this article, know this; I am one of the few victims of a standardized national education system in Ghana, who was lucky enough to escape its impact. I am also a member of the Board of Directors of a private K-12 institution in Accra, Ghana. Golden Sunbeam Montessori School was founded by my mother in 1989 and is currently leading the fight to rid our country of an educational system that has led to the systematic degradation and deterioration of our human capital.

Let’s get to the core of my argument; pun intended. What Americans are calling Common Core is eerily similar to my educational experience growing up in Ghana. In Ghana, K-12th grade education was tightly controlled by the Ghana Education Service, an organization similar to the US Department of Education. From curricula to syllabi to standardized testing, the government controlled everything.

In 9th grade, all students, in order to progress to high school are required to take a standardized exam known as the B.E.C.E, which stands for Basic Education Certification Examination. Depending on the results of the test, each student is assigned by a computer program to a public high school without regard to his or her interests, passions or ambitions. Each student is then assigned an area of focus for the next three years. Some of the focus areas are General Science, Business Management, General Arts, Visual Arts, Home Economics, Agriculture, etc.

Although things may have changed slightly since I graduated, most students generally did not have a choice as to which area of focus they were assigned. The only way to get a choice was to ace the standardized exam or to call in a favor either through bribery or some other type of corruption. The students who failed miserably were usually those who attended public schools; many of whom dropped out of school entirely.

The process was then repeated at the end of High School with another standardized exam called the W.A.S.S.S.C.E. This exam tested your readiness for college and ultimately determined which course of study you were assigned by the government in college. I did not ace that exam and did not get admission into the state run college of my choice. Instead, I went to a private university founded by a former Microsoft employee and was found smart enough to be admitted to BYU a year later as a transfer student, to graduate with a Bachelor’s in Information Technology and to be hired right out of college as a Program Manager at Microsoft Corporation.

Although the education system in Ghana is not similar in all aspects to Common Core as it is being proposed today, some of the basic tenets are the same. The curriculum was controlled by an external body without input from or accountability to teachers, individual schools or parents. Some argue that teachers and parents have control in Common Core. It pains me to witness such naivety. That myth has always been an inevitable play by proponents of any centralized system. The goal is to make people think they are in control while nudging them blindly towards a perceived public interest. The truth is simple; the institution that controls the exams, controls the curriculum.

By controlling the standardized exams, each school in Ghana was forced to make passing the exam its primary focus rather than actual teaching and learning. Hence anything that was deemed outside the purview of the test was cast aside and treated as non-important. Extra-curricular activities were cut if not totally eliminated and the school day was lengthened to ensure that students had even more time to prepare for the test.

In my case, school started at 6:00am and ended as late as 6:00pm. We attended school on Saturdays. Even when school was out we still attended school half day. Our lives were consumed with preparation for the standardized test. We all had booklets of past tests going back 15 years. Those who anticipated failing the test registered in advance to retake the test. The value of teachers was measured solely on the performance of their students on the standardized tests. Scammers who purported to know what would appear on the tests duped schools, parents and teachers alike by selling bogus test questions. Schools with political connections always unanimously aced the tests.

You may wonder why nobody ever tried to change the system. The answer was simple. The government made it impossible by requiring all students who wanted to go to High School or College to take the test. Hence, any time spent trying to change the system meant time taken away from preparing for the test. Parents became completely beholden to the system and would threaten to take the kids to other schools if administrators spent any time not preparing their kids for the test.

Now that you have a sense of how an education system can become trapped in the death spiral of standardized tests, let me interest you with the impact of this system on actual student outcomes. In Ghana, we had a phrase to describe how we felt about standardized tests. We called it “chew and pour, pass and forget”. Translated, it means memorize, regurgitate, pass the exam and forget everything.

Unfortunately that has become reality for many graduates of our educational system. As my father put it in a recent petition to the Ghana Education Service, “the education system in Ghana is akin to an assembly line setup by the government to create employees for an economy largely devoid of innovation, entrepreneurship, originality or risk taking”. Because students never learn to solve problems or think critically for themselves and are largely discouraged from challenging their teachers or the status quo, they are inevitably groomed to maintain the failed traditions of the past while believing they are completely powerless to change anything. The result is the fact that even with an abundance of natural resources, the country in general continues to suffer in the doldrums of socio-economic development without any clear path out of it.

Recently my brother left a well-paying job in the US to return to Ghana to take over my parent’s school. He had dreams of changing the system. He imagined students groomed to become innovators and entrepreneurs. He soon learned it was impossible to achieve any of those dreams if the school was to remain subject to the rules, restrictions and common standards the government had set. The only solution was to completely abandon the system, which he fears would cause parents to withdraw their children from the school. He is now stuck in the limbo of a catch 22 but continues to fight to win students, teachers and parents over to a new beginning for the education of their children.

In December 2012, I returned to Ghana with my family and had the opportunity to speak to 10th grade students at the school. I gave what I thought was an inspiring speech. I proposed to start an innovation and entrepreneurship club which will employ students to identify and propose solutions to some of the problems facing the country. I promised to provide the capital and resources necessary to support these kids in this new challenge. I ended by asking the kids who were interested to write their names on a piece of paper and email it to me. It’s been more than 18 months since I returned. I have received nothing and I don’t blame them. Their parents have paid a large sum of money because they believed our school would help their kids pass the standardized exam. I was not about to distract them from that goal. What a tragedy.

I have personally wondered what makes Africa so uniquely challenged in its attempts at economic development especially when all the innovations needed to do so are readily available to us. I came to a personal conclusion which admittedly is not scientific but captures what I believe to be the elusive culprit. It is contentment with mediocrity and a lack of curiosity to change the status quo. The problem is not inherent in the nature of Africans but rather the imposition of an educational system that burned out the light of innovation and made us content to live on the spoils of the countries brave enough to venture into the glory of the unknown. When I came to the US, many people would ask what the difference was between the US and Ghana. I responded that in Ghana, I could dream. In America I can do.

In writing this article, I am by no means endorsing the current state of public education in the United States. The problem with the system today is that the US government, aided by self-interested unions, has spent decades and billions of dollars trying to return to a system of education that America abandoned a long time ago; a system which has proven a failure in many parts of the world. Common Core is just the latest iteration of the failed system. Like a wise man once said, oh that I were an angel and could have the wish of my heart; to stand on the mountain top to warn against the path you are choosing to take. As an outsider looking in, I recognize one thing that most Americans lack. Because America has been free for so long, many have no sense of what tyranny looks like and how quickly physical and intellectual freedom can be lost on the path paved with good intentions.

I plead with all you well-intentioned but definitely misguided administrators, teachers and politicians. Raise your heads out of the dust and realize that America is great because America bucked against the status quo. Thinking a standardized and common core curriculum is innovative is like discovering water in the ocean and patting yourself on the back for it. This system is not new. Its greatest success was to create a conforming working class for the industrial revolution. It is not fit for a dynamic 21st century that needs constant innovation and the confidence to create new solutions to the problems that continue to beset and confound the smartest minds in the world.

America is desperate to find a solution to a problem that you solved decades ago. Return to originality. Put teachers and parents in charge of the education of their children. Encourage critical thinking that rejects conformity for the sake of some perceived societal benefit. Teach children to solve problems and not just to regurgitate the solutions of generations past. I have been silent too long and have now seized this opportunity to stand up for what I believe, which ironically is something I have learned from my experience in America.

America, I urge you to learn from the mistakes of those around because, like the plaque in my former bishop’s office read, “you may not live long enough to make all those mistakes yourself.”

–Alma Ohene-Opare, Salt Lake City, UT

 

State Board Audio Transcript on Adopting Common Core

From the audio from June 4, 2010 –first CC vote

Wendy Hart sent me this transcription of the first Common Core vote

http://stream.schools.utah.gov/videoarchive/board/audio/2010/06-04-10/10_Student_Achievement_and_School_Success_Committee.mp3

State Board June 4, 2010:

5:48–”on the cutting edge of adopting the Common Core standard…the final iteration of the State Common Core standards just came out like two days ago…you have it before you….There is background on this whole initiative, and then you have two documents that make comparisons…

Laurel (Committee report) 7:15: Recommending that the board adopt the common core of states standards as a framework on first reading and we have time for the board members to go in and study this material and then we have second and third reading in August. The momentum in terms of this, although we can do it at any point in time, it is something we probably want to move ahead on more quickly rather than later. Acceptance of the Common Core standards does have some bearing in terms of the points that we receive for our second application for the funding from the federal government. So that would need to happen quite quickly. There is some angst among some people in terms of having to accept a common core standard, and so some of you may still be at that level. Many of us have already gone through that and feel ready to move ahead. We need to bear in mind that if Utah accepts the Common Core standards as iterated by that committee and it has been vetted through multiple people and agencies….if we do it, we accept the whole thing as it is. We don’t nit-pick and wordsmith this, it’s accept it. Then at that point, in terms of using it as a framework, we can plug in the details…map out the curriculum in terms of what’s actually going to happen in the classroom…. we can add to it, we just can’t take away any of that curriculum.

19:30: Brenda Hales: It’s a sea change, and what we thought when we talked about this in the committee is we know you haven’t had time to look, so if the board adopts on first reading, then it gives you time the next month and a half to review it for second and third in August.

19:47: (Debra Roberts?) Laurel, our expectation then is to have the board vote on first reading. Does everyone understand that? So, even though the committee approved it on first reading, it’s coming to you for first reading and then we’ll do second and third reading in August.

20:08: Sup. Shumway: The reason for that is various, sort of strategic reasons as we may find ourselves in an interview relative to our Race to the Top application.

All those in favor, say “Aye”.. “Aye” Any opposed? Thank you.

How to get rich fighting Common Core

On occasion we get an accusatory question from someone asking what we’re personally gaining from our efforts in education advocacy. What a fun rumor for proponents of Common Core to spread. I’ve got charts full of circles to share with people if any of you would like to schedule a meeting in your home and invite your friends over... ;)

This morning someone emailed us through the site asking this question and at the behest of some friends I shared this with, I’m posting it here.

“Can you give me information on what you stand to gain from this movement and insight into where funding is coming from for this movement?”

Here’s my reply which you are welcome to share with people who are SURE that we’re making money off this.

“You want information on what WE stand to gain from this movement?

Financially: we spend our own money and time (which is money) doing something we don’t want to do and aren’t paid for.

Emotionally: it would be far easier to do nothing and just take care of our own families and not stick our necks out to deal with the idiocy we deal with.

Physically: wow could we all use more sleep.

Socially: we’re polarized and have made some great friends and some terrific enemies.

Spiritually: very rewarding

Hope that helps answer your question.”

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