All posts by Lisa Cummins

Setting the record straight – a rebuttal to Joel Coleman’s post

[Quick note by Oak Norton: Before presenting Lisa Cummin’s rebuttal to State School Board Member Joel Coleman’s article, I wanted to comment that Joel and I have known each other for some time. He’s well aware of my efforts with others in 2007 to raise Utah’s math standards and the success we had going from D rated standards to an A- (according to the Fordham Foundation ratings). For Joel to publish that opponents of Common Core are “people who don’t want any standards at all” is a shocking misrepresentation. I cannot understand how he could possibly make this statement when he knows we have always been for stronger statements and considered the Common Core standards mediocre. He knows better and should immediately apologize for this clear misrepresentation. Please read Lisa Cummin’s excellent response below.]

Originally posted at:

Yesterday, Utah State School Board member, Joel Coleman, wrote a blog post about the Common Core Standards and where he thinks the mis-understandings lie.

In his opening paragraph he says: “it has become increasingly apparent to me that some of the strongest opponents of Utah’s core standards are people who don’t want any standards at all. Some of them have children that don’t even attend public schools, and therefore are not subject to the standards we are required to implement, anyway.”

Joel, allow me to correct you. We do want standards. We have standards, both in the religious aspects of our lives as well as in our homes with our children. It’s how we know we are progressing towards our goals. In the 1828 Noah Webster’s dictionary definition #3 for “standard” states: “That which is established as a rule or model, by the authority of public opinion, or by respectable opinions, or by custom or general consent; as writings which are admitted to be the standard of style and taste. Homer’s Illiad is the standard of heroic poetry. Demosthenes and Cicero are standards of oratory. Of modern eloquence, we have an excellent stand in the speeches of Lord Chatham. Addison’s writings furnish a good standard of pure, chaste and elegant English style. It is not an easy thing to erect a standard of taste.”

Standards define a moral and chaste people; of course we want standards. Do not attempt to belittle us to the public on this.

It is true that some of us have pulled our children out of public and charter schools. That is our right, as parents to do so and should not be looked down upon. But there are two other points that Joel neglects to mention. Speaking for myself, I pulled my children out of public school because of Common Core, as a whole, not just the standards. I am not a standards expert. However, I have been taught that you don’t phase out the classics as you get older, you must encourage others to read them more! I also know that introducing classics as abridged or in parts, is not teaching the classics, it’s taking out the most important details that builds the emotion or passion of the story. Both points which David Coleman, noted author of the ELA standards and current President of the College Board, absolutely abhors and find unnecessary for learning. Dr. Sandra Stotsky (a standards expert) would not sign off on the English Language Standards because they do not meet college and university level required reading. Phasing them out to 30%, in 12th grade is horrible to the development of children, even through their teen years!

The second note is that we as homeschoolers will be subject to the “standards” as homeschool publishing companies are aligning their curriculum with the standards (including Saxon and Singapore Math, Excellence in Writing and others), as well as the college entrance exams will most likely provide low scores from our children’s testing. So again, please don’t belittle the effect it will have on homeschooling.

In Joel’s comments, he stated that the Common Core Standards were required by law to be adopted which, is simply not true. In fact you can hear the audio of the Board, on August 6th 2010, saying that they are the ones adopting the Common Core, not the State legislature. State legislatures were not involved with the Standards themselves and in fact didn’t become involved until they started passing laws regarding grading of schools, computer adaptive testing, data collecting, and anything else involving exchange of monies. Now No Child Left Behind is a law, but that is a Federal law, not a state.

Mr. Coleman mentions that the explanations in his post where sent to him; that he is not the original author, I’d like to know his sources, as these should be transparent.

Continuing from his post we find: “The purpose of Utah’s core standards is not to drive everyone to achieve the same specific goals for each student, or for them to achieve at the same pace. It is not designed to promote sameness.” Question: If the students don’t achieve the goal of the teacher, school district or State Board, who fails? According to current law, SB 271, it is the teacher and eventually the school.

In continuing my research, I found Senator Neiderhauser’s, current sitting President of the Senate, blog post on “The Senate Site” B 59 will change that definition so that a school’s grade is based on more tangible benchmarks.”

SB271 is the Amended portion to SB59.

It is based on tangible benchmarks or standards. It is a system of one size fits all, or the teachers and the schools will fail. They are tied together. Bad standards will lead to bad assessments. Bad assessments will drive bad curriculum. Bad curriculum will drive the students to test below college and university levels, which mean the teachers and the schools will receive an “F” or worse. This is not just about standards. The picture is much bigger than that, and the State knows it.

Mr. Colman shared his blog post on his Facebook page, and I found Senator Moss’s response rather interesting:

“Carol Spackman Moss: Thank you for the post, Joel. You are exactly right! The CCSS do not limit students, they set standards that allow students and teachers to have some idea what they should aiming for. It doesn’t set curriculum or teaching style. I’m frustrated with the fear mongering and the insistence by some that these standards will have deleterious effects on our students. Why are some folks fearful of more rigor? If we want our students to be able to compete with students all over the world, we need to raise the bar. Thanks for taking the time to educate and inform. (Your friend and high school English teacher).”

As I speak to various people about Common Core and describe the whole picture, I am amazed that our meetings are much calmer, than those that the State hosts. We lay out what we have found, including original sources. I asked in that same Facebook thread where the evidence that these standards are rigorous was. Where is their research? Post it! Who conducted the research? Who participated? My friends and I have yet to receive an answer to these questions. What we can show you is that they haven’t done the research. We can show you the timeline, and how it was time- sensitive and money driven.

These standards are nothing wonderful! Otherwise there wouldn’t be so much opposition to them nation wide!

Michelle Malkin’s “Rotten to the Core” Utah Style

Re-published with permission from


Michelle Malkin released the fourth installment of her series “Rotten to the Core: The Fed’s Invasive Student Tracking Database.”

Syndicated Columnist Michelle Malkin

Syndicated Columnist Michelle Malkin

In it she talks extensively about the data tracking plans of students, gathering very private, invasive, information that goes beyond, the normal Social Security number, age, birth date, home address, etc.

Utahns Against Common Core, and Utah moms Alisa Ellis, Renee Braddy, and Christel Swasey, as well as myself, have been studying this topic for over a year. We have gathered evidence, and documented exchanges that confirms what Michelle Malkin is saying in her opt piece. However allow me to inform you what Michelle has left out, and specifically, how it affects Utah.

In Michelle’s piece she states, “Say goodbye to your children’s privacy. Say hello to an unprecedented nationwide student tracking system, whose data will apparently will be sold by government officials to the highest bidders.” These two statements are full of information. First, Yes! Do say goodbye! In an effort to gather this information, schools- including Utah- have been gathering every child’s medical history to put in their school portfolio. I’m not talking about vaccinations; I’m talking about assignment questions, that ask, “When was the last time you’ve seen your doctor,?” and “Who is your doctor?” Doubt me? I have an original copy of that assignment! By the way, that assignment was given without a parental signature.

Park City High School is collecting data from their students, and it is not random information, but – infact – DNA! A post on the Utahns Against Common Core website states, “The High School has apparently agreed to participate in a study where students will give DNA samples to a lab as an outbreak drill to test new lab equipment. The purpose is that in the future, they may want to determine how new H1N1 type diseases are spreading.”

These are only two of many examples concerning data collecting! This information is right under the noses of parents, and either they don’t recognize it, or won’t come forward because of fear. I know it’s intimidating, especially when you fear your child might be singled out and bullied – but can you imagine if those who are silent all took a step forward, how much pressure could be applied to make changes! You can read more about the data collecting here:

Michelle also references- the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). Most parents don’t know that this law exists, nor would they know that there are two versions: Federal FERPA laws and Utah FERPA laws. In the middle of President Obama’s first term, Federal FERPA laws were changed without Congressional consent. Under the direction of his administration, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan amended some of the National FERPA laws, so that the National “student longitudinal data system” could acquire the data they need.

President Barack Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan

President Barack Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan
I’ve copied some of the more pertinent points from the document, below. Every parent should be aware of FERPA and so I’ve provided the link here:

“SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: On April 8, 2011, the Department published a notice of proposed rule-making (NPRM) in the Federal Register (76 FR 19726). In the preamble to the NPRM, the Secretary stated that the proposed changes were necessary to ensure the Department’s proper implementation of FERPA, while allowing for the effective use of student data, and to address other issues identified through the Department’s experience in administering FERPA.

“Protecting student privacy is paramount to the effective implementation of FERPA. All education data holders must act responsibly and be held accountable for safeguarding students’ personally identifiable information (PII) from education records. The need for clarity surrounding privacy protections and data security continues to grow as statewide longitudinal data systems (SLDS) are built and more education records are digitized and shared electronically. As States develop and refine their information management systems, it is critical that they take steps to ensure that student information is protected and that PII from education records is disclosed only for authorized purposes and under circumstances permitted by law. (When we use the term “disclose” in this document, we sometimes are referring to redisclosures as well.)

“The amendments reflected in these final regulations establish the procedures that State and local educational authorities, and Federal agencies headed by officials listed in Sec. 99.31(a)(3) (FERPA-permitted entities), their authorized representatives, and organizations conducting studies must follow to ensure compliance with FERPA. The amendments also reduce barriers that have inhibited the effective use of SLDS as envisioned in the America Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education, and Science Act (the America COMPETES Act) (Pub. L. 110-69) and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) (Pub. L. 111-5). Finally, by expanding the requirements for written agreements and the Department’s enforcement mechanisms, the amendments help to ensure increased accountability on the part of those with access to PII from education records.

“These amendments include definitions for two previously undefined terms, “authorized representative” and “education program,” to permit greater access by appropriate and authorized parties to information on students in order to evaluate the effectiveness of education programs. Specifically, we have modified the definition of and requirements related to “directory information” to clarify (1) that the right to opt out of the disclosure of directory information under FERPA does not include the right to refuse to wear, or otherwise disclose, a student identification (ID) card or badge; (2) that schools may implement a limited directory information policy in which they specify the parties or purposes for which the information is disclosed; and (3) the Department’s authority to hold State educational authorities and other recipients of Department funds under a program administered by the Secretary accountable for compliance with FERPA.

“We believe that the regulatory changes adopted in these final regulations provide clarification on many important issues that have arisen over time with regard to how FERPA applies to SLDS and to other requests for data on student progress.”

Again, I remind the public that these changes were made without Congressional oversight! Are you awake yet?
Duncan Obama2
The nail in the coffin for all this hard work is the Student Longitudinal Data System (SLDS). Utah was given a $9.2 million federal grant for helping to set up the State SLDS! John Brandt is the Technology Director and IT Coordinator for the Utah Department of Education. Mr. Brandt has been building this data system in congruency with the federal government’s help for over 18 months. At an Education Committee meeting I attended, he stated that he was almost finished with building the structure to maintain future, incoming data. He also stated that he hoped the legislature would continue to fund this “valuable tool” after the federal grant had expired. I was skeptical of Mr. Brandt’s statement that data would not be shared outside of Utah. Oh really? Then what strings are attached to the $9.2 million dollars? And why are the remaining 49 States creating similar systems? You can read the full account of the meeting here:

Governor Gary Herbert

Governor Gary Herbert
So, with all this careful planning and implementation, why and for whom is all this information being gathered? That explanation could go on forever, but I will focus on Governor Herbert’s program of Prosperity 2020 and President Obama’s 2020 educational goals. They are in alignment and not by accident. Since American citizens have been taxed to the max, what better way to generate more money than to create Public- Private Partnerships (PPP). “This ‘paradigm,’ of course, is that of sustainable development, which combines the power of the purse,one might call it, with the power of the sword. The resources of business (the power of the purse) are utilized to do the work of “governance” (the power of the sword)—with the former’s full cooperation and support.” (from a white paper published by the Liberty Garden, entitled “Public-Private Partnerships, the undermining of free enterprise, and the emergence of soft fascism”}

So now you have the formula: Federal and State Data Collecting – FERPA laws + PPP = a government-created workforce of our children for the use of enterprise!