Zinger Letter to State School Board Members

The more one studies about Common Core documents and what our elected officials are saying, the more one sees the lack of information they have of the big picture. It’s truly as if they just don’t want to see, hear, or speak the truth. Here is a letter sent to State School Board members from a citizen that took it upon herself to do her homework, attend meetings, listen to what our elected officials have to say, and then put the big picture together.

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Dear Elected Officials:

I am a part of “We the People”.  You are not in your position because you are smarter than the rest of us.  You are in your elected office because you chose to rise up and say, “I will serve the rest of you if you elect me.”  You were elected because We gave you permission to serve us.  You are in your office because “We the People” put you there.  We decided you could do your job after you communicated with Us what your plans were.  You are to report to The People your intentions.

Somehow that seems have been lost in the transition between you moving from civilian to a government representative of the people.  You have decided that you know better than We.  I am here to tell you, you don’t.  I don’t care what letters you have after your name.  I don’t care where you went to school.  I don’t care what your party affiliation is.  You do not know better than me as it relates to the education of my children.  Yet, Dixie Allen of the Utah State School Board stated in an email exchange with Christel Swasey, “Local Teachers and parents don’t know everything about what is quality education,” http://whatiscommoncore.wordpress.com/2013/04/19/utahns-discuss-common-core-math/   Really?  Why then do we entrust the children of Utah to their parents and teachers?  What an arrogant statement!  She also states in her rebuttal to Christel’s questions regarding the quality of the math standards that her experience as a teacher for 26 years and as a mother she is qualified to weigh in on this debate as a member of the State Board of Education.  I have been a teacher and I am a mother yet I am not qualified to determine what a quality education is for my children according to her first statement.  How does it work that her ability to judge comes from the very things she condemns as inadequate for the rest of the population?

Some very intelligent, educated people with letters after their names have done an incredible amount of research.  Some very intelligent, concerned parents have put in hours and hours researching articles, government documents, business practices and information, and claims as they relate to the Common Core Standards, Data Collection, and Computer Adaptive Testing.  These people may not hold a government office, but they have done their due diligence in researching this issue.  For you to dismiss their efforts because you hold a borrowed position is beyond arrogant.  All of you have an obligation to do all the research we have and weigh all the outcomes of this issue before you plow ahead and make it policy and law.  If there is dissent, as an elected official you have an obligation to consider the arguments, not just offer political answers to fit your agenda.  I can see that you have not done your due diligence in learning about all aspects of the Computer Adaptive Testing because it is evident in the S.A.G.E. meetings I have watched online and attended in person.

I am gravely concerned about Utah’s contract with A.I.R. and adoption of Computer Adaptive Tests for our children.  I have done a tremendous amount of research on the company A.I.R. and also have personal knowledge of how C.A.T.’s affect children as my children have taken these types of tests before.  It was an incredibly negative educational experience for them.   A.I.R. is the company Utah contracted with to provide the Computer Adaptive Testing under the title S.A.G.E. and it replaces the current CRT tests.  A.I.R.’s specialty is behavioral testing.  http://www.air.org/about/?fa=viewContent&content_id=96
Their mission and vision as stated from their website:

Mission

AIR’s mission is to conduct and apply the best behavioral and social science research and evaluation towards improving peoples’ lives, with a special emphasis on the disadvantaged.

Vision

Within the United States and internationally, AIR will be the preeminent organization that

  • produces improvements in education, health, and the workforce;
  • addresses the needs of individuals, organizations, and communities;
  • designs and advances statistical and research methods;
  • causes practitioners and organizations to adopt evidence-based practices; and
  • informs public understanding and policy making by the best evidence.

They are a company that specializes in behavioral and social science research.  Their first bullet point on their vision is to produce improvements in education, heath, and the workforce.  It is a coincidence they are the “preeminent organization” within the USA to produce these improvements just as The Affordable Care Act is ready to go online right about the same time Common Core is to be fully implemented?

What does this have to do with academics?  So teachers now get to know why little Johnny doesn’t understand math on a behavioral level?   Teachers are supposed to be psychologists too?  Actually no, A.I.R. has psychometricians who will analyze the behavioral markers in the test.  There was a considerable amount of dissent at the Davis County S.A.G.E. meeting about the need for a psychometrician to analyze the student’s test.  At the Davis County S.A.G.E meeting the Assistant Superintendent of Schools over testing, Judy Park, said that there was a great deal of misinformation about what a psychometrician does. She stated a psychometrician was someone who simply analyzed the academic test data; a statistician.  A member of the audience corrected her and informed the rest of us what a psychometrician does.  “Psychometricians play a major role in studying and analyzing human behavior. Their findings help companies hire people who are best suited for certain positions. Potential employees can benefit from tests that reveal what environments best showcase their skills. As more companies and industries incorporate psychometrics into their human resources operations, the potential for increased productivity and happier employers and employees grows.”
( What is a psychometrician?
)  Judy Park was also asked if behavioral markers would be imbedded into the tests to which she emphatically said no.  Why then does Utah need to do business with a company whose purpose is to provide behavioral testing (according to their mission statement) and employs psychometricians to analyze the behavioral markers in testing data?  Wouldn’t it be a huge waste of money if they aren’t doing what the company’s purpose is?  Why do our children need to be analyzed for their personality traits and opinions? This type of testing has been employed by corporations for many years now.  It helps them determine if a potential applicant is compatible with their company.  I find it is a good business practice for potential applicants as they are aware of the test and take it in accordance with their own desires to be employed.  It is another matter entirely to do this type of testing on children all in the name of academic rigor and without offering an option for parents to opt out of having their children participate.  Judy Park also stated parents can opt their children out of the testing but reminded the audience that schools must have a 95% participation rate on the testing or else the school is classified as failing and would lose funding (SB 271).  Isn’t that extortion?

A report from the Logan S.A.G.E. meeting included these comments from the meeting commentators.

“One lady was concerned that the adaptive nature of the tests was designed to make all kids fail 50% of the questions no matter how good they were.  Ms. Park said it was ok and noted that many kids already do not do well on tests and are used to it.”  Children already know they are failures so it won’t surprise them if they do poorly?  This is supposed to be good for our children?  “She said that the kids would be prepared and trained for what this new system would be like.”

“The lady restated that she was concerned with kids taking a test that didn’t end until the test adapted to outwit and fail them, stating ‘At which point does the test let up, once the child is vomiting?'”

Dr. Garrett said that it was going to be fun and challenging for good students to be newly presented with things in the test which they had never seen before or been taught before.  He said that the kids will recognize when the test starts quizzing them on new, never before presented material, stating that they would feel empowered that they must be doing well on the test and that it would be a positive thing for them.”( Logan S.A.G.E. meeting )  What child do you know that will find more testing fun and exciting?  The students are going to be tested on material they have never seen before or have never been taught and this is supposed to be fun?  Are these comments meant to pacify parent’s concerns?  This sounds like a recipe for disaster.  When has anyone ever been empowered by being tested on something they don’t know anything about?  Dr. Gary Thompson and his associate Edward D. Flint, Attorney at Law have spoken at great length about the ill effects of Computer Adaptive Testing on children.  I would encourage you to read his letter to Superintendent Menlove.

These are a few of the points that Judy Park considers the positive points for the Computer Adaptive Testing:

  • “Children will no longer need an IEP for certain basic testing accommodations, such as the text being enlarged to a bigger font on the computer screen, taking breaks or extended time for tests.
  • The testing/data system will be available in Braille.”

Children will no longer need and IEP?  Are you kidding me?  This test is supposed to be the end all be all of solutions for a student’s complex learning disability?  At the Davis County meeting I asked Judy Park what accommodations there were for students who could not take the SAGE test because of their IEP accommodations.  She stated the only accommodations would be those offered by the test.  What about students who need a verbal test?  She stated there were no accommodations for that.  I spoke with Superintendent Menlove the following week (May 3, 2013) in an impromptu meeting between him and other concerned parents and he stated there is a test that would be available for students with IEP testing accommodations.  It is called the Utah Alternate Assessment or U.A.A.  Shouldn’t  (Judy Park) Assistant Superintendent of Schools over testing know that this test is available for special needs students so that the students and their parents aren’t put through undue stress at test time?  If she is aware of this then she lied at the meeting.   If she isn’t aware this test exists, it begs the question, why not?  She is in charge of testing for Utah.

This is the kind of double talk parents are getting from the State Board of Education.  We ask questions and we either get 1/2 truths, outright lies, or apparent displays of incompetence.  The question continues to be put forth, why would you commit Utah to this outrageous education policy?  What are their answers?  The party line is that “standards are not curriculum, the new testing is wonderful and will help teachers better teach to their student’s needs, the data will not leave the district and will be protected.  The standards are internationally benchmarked and rigorous.”

I would like to ask the question, if this system is so wonderful, then why is there such dissent in Utah and all over the country for that matter?  The concerns aren’t just coming from some crazy right wing faction.  People from all political persuasions are concerned with the level of intrusion that will befall us all.   In the Unitah S.A.G.E. meeting held by the USOE, some light was shed on Utah’s involvement with all of this education reform. ‘ Dixie (Allen) also repeatedly stated that Utah must do Common Core because otherwise we cannot buy curriculum to match our core because we don’t spend enough money on education and therefore the curricula vendors don’t cater to us. No one in the room agreed with her on needing more money, but she made this claim repeatedly. Then when the question “How much will these new curricula materials to match common core cost us?” was asked, the answer was “Nothing, we’re making our own.” ‘ (Unitah SAGE Meeting

I have looked into what A.I.R. does.  They have four current contracts is with USAID.  The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)is committed to increasing the sustainable impact of our development assistance programs through strategic alliances with the private sector. Such alliances enable the Agency to leverage private sector markets, expertise, interests, and assets in a manner that solves critical development problems and promotes effective market led development. USAID Contract with A.I.R.

This sounds great until you get to page 5 where they talk about their value to the private sector.

“Global Development Alliances provide businesses with a number of opportunities to achieve core business interests. By participating in a GDA, businesses have been able to improve supply chain quality and reliability; increase sales; expand their customer base and access to new markets; develop new products and services; reduce operating costs; increase productivity; improve distribution systems; increase access to sufficiently qualified and skilled talent;improve relationships with key stakeholders; increase brand awareness; and mitigate key business risks.

Furthermore, businesses have been able to leverage USAID capabilities and assets to drive results.

For example:

•…in the ICT sector has provided businesses with the mix of human capital needed to improve productivity, reduce investment risk, and expand business operations”

What does this have to do with computer adaptive testing in Utah?  If A.I.R.’s contracted expertise is utilized by this government agency for the purpose of aiding countries around the world to partner businesses with human capitol needed to expand their business operations, then isn’t it strange Utah would only contract with them for academic testing?  That isn’t their specialty.  Their specialty is working with private businesses to test people to determine where those people can be utilized as human capitol to further economic development in those countries.  Their job is to aid countries in improving their workforce.  I cannot comment on the value of this program for other countries around the world but it seems to me to be huge waste of A.I.R.’s talents to under-utilize them with only analyzing academic information from standardized test, unless they really are doing more with the tests our Utah children will be taking.

One of A.I.R.’s contracts with USAID is:

“EQUIP1 is an LWA cooperative agreement designed to provide technical assistance and services to USAID to raise the quality of student learning by improving teacher and school performance and increasing the level and quality of community involvement in basic education. EQUIP1 addresses all levels of education, from early childhood development and school readiness to primary and secondary education, adult basic education, pre-vocational training, and the provision of life skills.”  EQUIP1 Contract

Clearly they are able to handle the complexities of education as it relates to skill development for the purposes of future employment. Again, this sounds great on the surface until you evaluate the desire for businesses to have “human capitol” that meets their exact employment needs.  Businesses could save a great deal of money if they were privy to student data that would allow them to hand pick whom would be best for their business.  They would know before a student ever applied for work with them whether that child would one day fit their business model.  There are many things wrong with this approach not the least of which is the statement above that they help with readiness for “basic education and pre-vocational training.  Shouldn’t a child choose what they want to do in life free from these parameters?  You got to decide what you wanted to be when you grew up.  Should we not afford our children the same opportunity free from invasive testing and corporate interference?  Should they not get to choose how far they want to take their education, or will the test decide for them and tell them what they get to do? Computer Adaptive Testing is wrong for Utah’s children and should be immediately defunded.  There is no place in our free society for this kind of invasion into a child’s psyche.

Carie Valentine

11 Responses to Zinger Letter to State School Board Members

  • Heidi says:

    Right on! Did you get a reply from the school board. I wrote to them, expressing concerns, and they replied in a condescending manner, and just sent me some links explaining the difference between standards and standardization. One was a sarcastically written blog, mocking those who were against CC. It didn’t really seem like they really listened, but just seemed to talk down to me, like my concerns were ridiculous. I’ve read articles from both sides, and it seems like those who are against CC write about the background and history of the movement for CC and respects the intelligence of the audience. Those who are for CC don’t give as much info, and the argument is emotionally based. I’m having a hard time coming to terms with losing trust in the great and powerful Utah State “Bored” of Education. Anyway, please submit this letter to the editor of a big Utah newspaper.

  • Marilyn Cooper says:

    This is brilliant! Your amazing letter indicates that you have not only done exhaustive research about CC and related topics but you have asked important, pertinent questions that are begging for substanttive, factual answers! This letter should be sent to every elected official in the State of Utah! Thank you for your courage to stand up to the “powers” that be”.

  • Well said. Don’t worry about not getting a reply back, in fact you may be lucky. :). When I wrote the Board on clinic letterhead, Board member Pipher from Logan wrote my Boss a ripper of a letter challenging my professionalism as well as questioning the fact that I ever wrote my dissertation on testing issues.

    In essence, she tried to get me fired. If she had done her homework, she would have discovered that my boss was my wife.

  • Jean Moore says:

    BRAVO CARIE; Well done! I don’t even live in Utah, nor have any children or grandchildren in Utah, But I am very concerned about the direction of education in America. Right now I am teaching English as a second language in China, (People’s Republic). My students are brilliant, but the “system” has not taught them how to think. This letter is right on, I hope it circulates around the nation!

  • Lissa Cook says:

    It’s frightening what’s happening in this education system and in our country. I’m glad there are people like you that still care about what’s right!! Please take this thing all the way.

  • Corinne Aagard says:

    I think it is a great letter. I am so impressed by the actual research being done by those opposed to CC and so grateful for the truth. I am just wondering when will we the people demand redress! Why do we continue to allow the USOE to decide when and with whom they will speak or hold meetings? Why are we allowing them to decide the discussion is over? It is time to call them and our governor to the meeting of our choosing. I have had it with these people whom we employ calling the shots. The last I heard there were 6,000 signatures on the petition against CC. Is it not time we all demand a meeting and then show up! Is it not true actions speak louder than words! We must organize a meeting by the people. We need to contact our representatives to help forward our demands to the governor and State school board that we the people,their bosses demand their presence or resignation! I have had it with being ignored! These are our children! This is our country that many lost there lives to create. It is time to stand again before we lose all our freedoms and I mean physically stand! If we lose the fight for our children’s hearts and minds we are done as a free people. It is time to remove our children out of public education. If you starve the beast it will eventually die, we are literally sacrificing our free nations most precious resource. It is literally the reason we have lost so much freedom,because those who want to change our country new they had do it through the children. We need all who are against CC to come together phyisically and stand!

  • Katherine Gerber says:

    Well written! In the last two weeks I ask one of the Parents on Parent-Teacher Community council about CC, she said “I didn’t know much so I asked one member, the principal what he thought.” His response “I don’t really know that much about it.” There is more about it on your site than from those who are pushing it. Keeping us in the dark is old stuff. I vote for Corinne –PULL OUT OUR CHILDREN FROM THE SYSTEM OF THE BEAST

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