Category Archives: Answering Charges

Yes, Utah is Still on Common Core

This past week I attended the state school board meeting to support Natalie Cline and those who would speak on her behalf over the treatment she is receiving from some fellow board members and outside groups, who hate that she has the crazy belief that parents have fundamental rights over their children and a right to know what schools are teaching them.

After the public comment time, I went outside to visit with other people that had come and were holding up signs in support of Natalie. As things slowed down and people started leaving, a lady approached me and saw my classic vintage green t-shirt that reads “No More Common Core.”

She said, “I’ve worked with 5 governors in Utah, and Utah isn’t using Common Core. We have our own standards.”

I had to chuckle. She had no idea who she was talking to. I asked if she knew my name and she didn’t. I told her I ran this website and proceeded to explain that I served on the state elementary math review committee (for one meeting). We were supposed to discuss options for Utah math and I was excited to share why we should transition to California’s excellent “Green Dot” standards from 1999-2000. Instead, the state office of education representatives wouldn’t let us discuss any options to take Utah off Common Core. All they would allow in the meeting was to examine each standard and decide if the standard belonged in that grade level or should be shifted to a grade above or below. I tried to bring up the CA standards and was completely shut down by Diana Suddreth who would tolerate no discussion of moving Utah off Common Core. That’s when I saw how pointless the process was and never returned to waste my time.

This lady then immediately excused herself saying she had to go do something. I saw her a couple more times that morning as she went in and out of the building to speak with others in the crowd. Thankfully, she was wearing a name tag and I looked her up. She was president of the Utah PTA 20 years ago.

If anyone tells you Utah is not on Common Core, they are either ignorant of the facts, a liar, or a Lenin-ite useful idiot. I hope she was just ignorant.

Dr. Martell Menlove, past state superintendent acknowledged this fact in past correspondence you can read in this post:

In it he wrote in reply to an email I sent him (emphasis mine):

Mr. Norton,

The Utah State Board of Education adopted the Common Core State Standards as Utah Core Standards in Math and English/Language Arts. I do not believe I have said anything contrary to this. If I have, I apologize.

Thanks for seeking this clarification.

As noted previously, I continue to be willing to meet with you at your convenience to hear your concerns.


Martell Menlove

From the article I just linked to, you can see a comment from Randall Lund. He went through all the standards and saw that word for word, they were the same. The only real difference is Utah added back cursive handwriting to our standards because it’s insane to remove that from education. Not only is cursive critical to brain development, but we live in Utah, genealogy capital of the world, where records are written in cursive. It took parents 8 months of effort to get the state to put those into the standards.

But, this morning just for fun, I pulled up the Utah Core standards and the national Common Core standards. I randomly picked 5th grade math to compare one section.

Here is the strand for 5th grade operations and algebraic thinking for Common Core.

Common Core 5th grade math sample

Below are the Utah core standards for this same 5th grade strand. You will see the first standard is identical except Utah has taken the bold step to remove an extra “A” from the Common Core nomenclature and simply label this a “Standard” instead of “CCSS Math Content.”

The second standard, Utah has gone to the extreme by splitting up “CCSS Math Content 5.OA.A.2” into parts “a” and “b”, but retaining the same language and examples of what a teacher is to do.

Standard 3 is completely identical.

Utah core 5th grade math sample

Yes, Utah is still on Common Core. We have never veered from the direction our overlords have desired for the children of this state and nation.

The Anonymous Attack Site “Get Cored”

You know Common Core is in trouble when it’s defenders put up a website to defend it and then make it anonymous, refuse to identify themselves, and their first post contains not a single positive thing about Common Core but an ad hominem attack on me personally. Hilarious. :)

Evidently I’m some tremendous threat to the establishment since the governor lost at convention to Jonathan Johnson and they know Common Core played a big role in it.

This is the site:

Check out the banner to their website.


For several months now I have felt an odd transformation happening in my soul. Now I finally know what it is. I have finally completed my ascendancy to become myth and legend. Mortals beware… ;)

The authors of the site start off by mocking a presentation I made in Draper a couple years ago called “Pulling Back the Wizard’s Curtain.” Thank you for helping distribute my message of truth to a wider audience. I fully encourage everyone to watch it to see the culture war we are in.

The anonymous author(s) go on to say:

Oak is the leader of a rag-tag group of radical extremists called the “Utahns Against Common Core,” a group hell-bent on fighting the Common Core and its devastating influence on helping children learn math and reading.”

Typical attack. Exaggerate and make stuff up to demonize me.

Here’s another straw man argument which isn’t even a shred true. Make up that I called basic math requirements “evil” and show a few basic requirements like multiply and add numbers, and pretend you’ve discredited me. Pathetic. Particularly after how I fought to get the state to raise its math standards which it finally did in 2007.

“Needless to say I was confused by the sentiments in Oak’s video regarding the “evil” behind these basic math requirements. Wasn’t this addition and subtraction we were talking about? How did we get from an educational standard to a conspiracy to indoctrinate our children with dystopian values?”

In fact, the page is so over-the-top, I just have to repost the last half here. I would ask for permission, but the author(s) have chosen to put up their own wizard’s curtain and make the site anonymous. The majestic defenders of Common Core have arrived! (But they’re too embarrassed to identify themselves)  Now lets look at their facts against the anti-Common Core movement…

“In the corresponding blog post to this video, Oak gives us the answer to that exact question.


That’s right folks. It’s not about the standards. It’s about one man’s quest to expose the ancient, unholy agenda of the federal government to destroy God and the family, one multiplication problem at a time.

You may laugh. I know I did. But as I read the comments on his videos and on his website, it became less and less amusing. These people weren’t laughing with me. These people were embracing Oak-soaking up his anti-government rhetoric and lauding him as a crusader. Whole masses of terrified parents were flocking to worship at the altar of Oak and receive his rambling instructions. His message of fear had slowly permeated through an unwitting audience, and without resistance had diffused into the hive consciousness. A following had been born.

This wasn’t the first time I had encountered these individuals, however. I had seen them spew their paranoid gospel on social media, and even spoken to some in person. Each shared common traits such as an inability to reason, and a complete disregard for fact. Each interaction I had with them usually ended in a similar fashion: an angry reaction to the realization that the truth they clung so dearly to was fiction, and that their paradigm was one not fixed in reality. But overall, this seemed like a small and innocuous sector of the general population, and I was just as pleased to discontinue the conversation as they were.

But recently, it was my paradigm that was shattered. Last Saturday at the Republican State Convention, for the first time, I witnessed the true nature and scale of the Cult of Oak. Over 2000 of his disciples filed into the crowded Salt Palace to fulfill their destiny. No longer exiled to fringes, these zealots had covertly infiltrated one of the most crucial political gatherings in the State of Utah and they would not be satisfied until a complete victory had been obtained.

This was no longer the rag-tag band of internet trolls I had largely ignored for so long. These people now had power. And although Oak Norton had seemingly brought his followers to the promised land, they now had found a Savior.


Promising to “get Utah out of the Common CoreJonathon Johnson, this election’s “Libertarian” gubernatorial challenger, pounded his fists on the podium to the deafening adulation of the crowd. Worshipers stood and cheered as he swore to eliminate the evils of higher math and reading standards. As the votes were counted, and the dust settled, it became clear that the madness had reached a tipping point. Fear had won, and what started as one man’s misguided and nonsensical journey to have his way had quickly become a revolution.

And that is why we have decided to fight back. To “pull back the wizard’s curtain” if you will. For too long, this sore has been left to fester in the heart of Utah, and has become infectious; endangering the future of Utah’s schools. To be clear, the education of our children is a non partisan venture; one whose outcomes should not be decided by an elite few who hate public education as much as they do the thought of vaccinating their kids. It’s time to get fringe politics out of our education. It’s time to let math and reading be just that. It’s time to stand up for the Utah Core.”

State Senator Todd Weiler posted this next comment on a Facebook group for GOP state delegates along with a link to the site, making it sound all official and mysterious in an effort to get people to read it. Dang, I hope they do. “Taking on Common Core by seeking to destroy Oak Norton.” Wow, that’s going to overwhelm the public with facts. Coincidentally, Todd shared this anonymous website as breaking news similar to the way he published a document to Facebook from an anonymous source attacking Jonathan Johnson. Some might just call that a pattern of behavior rather than a coincidence.

“Have you seen this? Somebody is taking on the common core conspiracy …” – Todd Weiler

Ha ha ha. Next time try putting bullets in the gun Todd & Co. If that’s the level of attack coming our way, I just have one thing to say.

“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” – Mahatma Gandhi

Someone posted a comment on the article asking who the author was since they are hiding behind their anonymity. The response reveals a lot about the arrogance of these semi-anonymous attackers.


Wow, and they call *me* off kilter…

Now here’s where it gets interesting. Mary Shumway, wife of former state superintendent Larry Shumway, confronted me at the UACC booth at the GOP convention last week. I address her in the article previous to this one on the blog. In it I show three screenshots of things she posted to a Facebook group. This is the third. Read the bottom half of this post carefully.

Mary Shumway's Post

So Mary is going to work with Tami Pyfer, the governor’s education advisor very closely on some things she can do that others can’t because she is retired.

Who were among the first few followers on the site’s Twitter account? Syd Dickson, acting Superintendent of the State of Utah. Diana Suddreth, director of teaching and learning at USOE. Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh, president of the UEA. Laney Benedict, Utah PTA. Kara Sherman, Utah and National PTA. Several at USOE, and others who equally despise me. A few names on the list surprised me though as I had thought they were above such things.

(Updated 5/4/16: I originally put Syd as one of the very first tweets but it was Diana, which to me suggests likely insider participation. Syd was one of the first five to follow the account on Twitter though and emailed me asking for a retraction that she tweeted this out and stated “I didn’t retweet the article as I wasn’t comfortable with it.” I asked her if she was really uncomfortable with it, why would she follow the account on Twitter when that was the only post on the site? Her reply back was: “I unfollowed GetCored. If by following you feel I agreed with the approach, I am sending the wrong message. I was truly just keeping my eyes on what they (?) have to say. Just wanted you to know. ” Tami Pyfer has also now denied any involvement. Diana Suddreth has also now denied any involvement with the site. Here’s Diana’s tweet.)


Also, Alyson Williams posted this on Facebook which may implicate Ricky Scott at the USOE:

“Here’s what we know about this anonymous blog. The person set up a matching Twitter account just weeks prior. The first real person to tweet about this blog was Utah State Office of education employee Ricky Scott (science coordinator.) There was also another fake Twitter account set up that day “notGovernorHerbert” that also retweeted A post from Ricky Scott as one of its first real person interactions. Pretty unusual coincidence. Most of the first people to follow the “getcored” Twitter feed (exception Senator Todd Weiler) were USOE employees and people in closely related jobs/roles. For example, the first district teacher to follow the feed was a science coordinator (assumed liaison to Ricky) in Alpine. I worked briefly for a social media analytics startup. The good news for privacy is that Twitter protects individual privacy, even that of bullies using fake identities. The bad news for those wishing to remain truly anonymous is that there’s kind of a web built by the connections as a message spreads and it looks like the USOE, or an employee, is at the center of this one. If they’re not creating this slander, they’re actively promoting it…”

So this “anonymous” involvement may go from the Governor’s cabinet, possibly to the State Superintendent, to the USOE, to the UEA, to the PTA… By golly, that looks like a genuine conspiracy!

For the record, I stand by everything I have ever published. Certainly, over 11 years of time and perhaps a thousand posts online, you should be able to find something I’ve posted that you can contradict and try to prove wrong. Some of the things I posted many years ago I might not even believe anymore because I’m always learning and adjusting to new evidence. I feel blessed having a mind capable of change. For example, at one time I wrote that I favored national standards. Then I saw what that picture looked like as Common Core and the agenda behind it was rolled out and I did a 180 on that point. Perhaps next time the opposition will actually attack an issue instead of a person. But then again, that’s hard when the facts are on our side.

Every single thing I post online I use my name on because I don’t ever want to feel like I’m free to hide behind a wall of anonymity and say something inappropriate to another person. There is so much rudeness in online forums, particularly the newspaper websites. Fake names promote bullying and aggression. I think the fact that their site hides behind a “wizard’s curtain,” while criticizing a talk I gave of that title, speaks volumes about the character of the people behind the website. They must feel pretty threatened from the number of parents who have woken up to the agenda playing out before us.

If the authors of the site actually want to engage in debate they should list some facts and have the discussion. Unlike their website, I allow opposing voices to have their say on this site so we can discuss things. And they do post! And we have discussions! So far these anonymous defenders of Common Core have blocked numerous posts that they are embarrassed about. I would be too if I’d published an article like that and claimed I was defending something by attacking someone. I’d probably lose the respect of everyone that follows this blog. The things I post online are factual, sourced, and not mocking of others. If you want to criticize me, there’s certainly plenty of content they can choose from. My most recent post on Governor Herbert’s involvement with Common Core lists several things they could start with.

Since I know how much these people hate when I involve something religious in my posts, I guess I’ll just close by quoting an LDS Apostle most of them are probably familiar with..

Don’t Wear Masks. Act in Accordance with Your Beliefs – by Quentin L. Cook

“It is common today to hide one’s identity when writing hateful, vitriolic, bigoted communications anonymously online.

Any use of the Internet to bully, destroy a reputation, or place a person in a bad light is reprehensible. What we are seeing in society is that when people wear the mask of anonymity, they are more likely to engage in this kind of conduct, which is so destructive of civil discourse. It also violates the basic principles the Savior taught.”

Amen Elder Cook. Amen.

OK, I didn’t know if I would post this or not at first, but I think in light of what’s going on, I will. Consider this bonus material…

The Sunday before the state GOP convention, Jonathan Johnson’s campaign emailed out an endorsement I gave of the Johnson campaign which included several bullet points from the Herbert article on this website. It was totally fact based with links to source documents.

A couple hours later, still on Sunday, Brian Maxwell, a former campaign director for Governor Herbert, sent out this email to state delegates.

Dear Mr. Johnson,

Please stop emailing delegates like myself on Sunday. Additionally, spreading such nonsense on the Sabbath is doubly frustrating. I felt compelled to take some time from my family to respond to this email. That’s something I would rather not do again.

In the future, try using a more reliable source than Oak Norton. Mr. Norton has been on a multi-year batlle to prove that BYU has been promoting a “socialist crusade” in the Alpine School District.

Candidates for Governor really ought to have more sense than providing a platform for such nonsense. Look through Mr. Orton’s blog here in you don’t believe me.

Jonathan, you need to be better than that. I think I speak for the other members of my precinct when I say that we don’t want our governor wearing a tin-foil hat, or giving an enlarged voice for those who do find them fashionable. As delegates, we deserve an better. An apology is in order.

For those interested in the Utah Core curriculum and the historical background, the State School Board has addressed this extensively. See that information here.


Brian Maxwell

State Delegate

Brian received quite a number of emails calling him a hypocrite, self-righteous, etc…, pointing out that nobody forced him to check his email on the Sabbath, or take time away from his family, and how ironic it was that he would send his email to delegates on the Sabbath as well, disrupting their day. :)

I waited a few days and then sent out this reply to delegates.

Dear Delegates,

Sunday you saw what happens when a Herbert supporter can’t defend the governor against the facts and instead tries to discredit the messenger. I encourage you all to read this article and decide for yourself whether it has any merit and see why Brian Maxwell and the Herbert campaign are so upset. The article links to official government documents and shares the statements of government and other officials which don’t quite paint the picture of local control of education that the Governor has been espousing. It’s hard to discredit source documents. :)

You’ve also probably received a letter or two from the Governor on how he “will not stop fighting against the federal government trying to intervene in Utah classrooms.” At least he admits it’s happening now. Unfortunately, the above article shows his record on this doesn’t match his campaign slogans. Here’s a rebuttal to his full letter by Alyson Williams, point by point, if you’re interested.

I also strongly encourage you all to read the links Brian Maxwell sent out about my efforts (with others) to get BYU’s Education Department and Alpine School District to drop a 25 year association with John Goodlad. Thank you Brian for pointing this out to everyone. Everyone should be aware of what’s happening in our schools. You should take great interest in what your children’s teachers teach them.

What Brian didn’t send out was this link which shows WHY we were battling John Goodlad. BYU was lending their good name to this man’s education network, even hosting his conference one year and sending speakers to his conference on a regular basis. What is the Goodlad agenda? He was pushing to get teachers to use school rooms to create activism toward social justice and the gay agenda. You can see a screenshot of his website advertising this on this post which Brian inadvertently failed to send out (because that might have subverted his intention to dismiss me).

FYI, as a result of our efforts, BYU’s Education Department DID DROP the association. Mission accomplished.

If you have never seen what social justice curriculum looks like, check out this elementary reading and writing curriculum video I posted two years ago with Jared Carman. It’s eye opening what some children are being exposed to.


Oak Norton

Responding to Mary Shumway’s Concerns

At last Saturday’s state GOP convention, we saw Jonathan Johnson beat out Governor Herbert, 55-45 among delegates. Not enough to hit the 60% threshold and prevent a primary election, but then again the Governor collected signatures to be on the primary ballot regardless of the outcome of the convention/caucus system. These nearly 4,000 individuals from around the state spent many hours over a course of a few weeks vetting these and other candidates to understand their policies and records. In my estimation, there were three main reasons that delegates chose to #HireJJ.

  1. Common Core. Governor Herbert’s campaign literature claimed he opposed Common Core, which is an outrageous claim disproven on this page.
  2. Governor Herbert made claims about cutting taxes 34 times which amounted to $200 million for taxpayers. What he neglected to mention was the 15 tax increases he signed which increased taxes by $800 million, and two weeks before the convention he refused to take a “no new taxes” pledge during his debate with Jonathan Johnson.
  3. Governor Herbert signed SB 54 into law, effectively seeking to overthrow the caucus system.

Well, plus the governor has 26 years in politics as a career politician. That’s long enough for anyone to lose touch…

While working the UACC booth during the convention, I was approached by a lady who began to challenge some of the things we were stating about the Governor’s involvement in Common Core. She soon identified herself as Mary Shumway, the wife of former state superintendent Larry Shumway, and as she says below, a former USOE employee. When she was done arguing a few points, she said she had my email address and would send me some information to enlighten me about where we are wrong.

A couple days after the convention ended, someone sent me a few screenshots from a Facebook group where Mary had posted these comments.

Mary Shumway's Post Mary Shumway's Post Mary Shumway's Post

I would like to help Mary with her efforts on fact checking as well as offer this advice.

PTA is a great avenue for you to push this message, particularly since Bill Gates gave national PTA a million dollars to push Common Core around the country. Pocket change in exchange for the blind support of their organization. Actually, national PTA’s support for big government solutions isn’t blind, it’s fully complicit.

For Mary’s benefit, I have now checked with Jonathan Johnson and his campaign manager. Neither one of them have ever heard of Larry or Mary Shumway so they are completely baffled how their “machine” is attacking them. I can’t speak for Mary and what she claims to have heard, but it doesn’t appear to be coming from #HireJJ’s campaign.

Mary also said people are saying she can’t be trusted, they lie, and not to talk to them. At the convention Mary seemed to blame me for this, not Jonathan Johnson’s campaign. She said there are people at her church that don’t talk to her.

If any of the readers of this article have been less than kind to someone who believes with all their heart that Common Core is the silver bullet Utah needs, just stop. You can point out facts and disagree, but we don’t have to be mean-spirited about it. Leave that for the the other side who despises that we are growing.

So lets get started on some facts…

On Saturday, Mary appeared highly offended that we had published a flier showing four documents where Governor Herbert signed us onto the federal reforms we call Common Core.  Her main point seemed to be that the documents he signed didn’t actually obligate us, because we didn’t actually receive Race to the Top money. When I asked if we had implemented each point of the agenda, she agreed that we did fully implement Common Core, the assessments, the data collection, redistribution of teachers, turnaround experts, etc…  The point is that we jumped into the Common Core because of the chance that Utah might receive some of the millions of dollars the Race to the Top promised.  After Utah realized it hadn’t won that money, it could have pulled out of Common Core, but it did not.  If you listen to the State School Board Audio minutes, there was literally joking going on that this was really a “race to the money”.  Federal money, not proven education reform, was the motivation from day one, regardless of whether Utah got financially rewarded for joining Common Core.

Touchdown for the feds getting states to spend billions of dollars to implement something they weren’t “obligated” to do. How many normal people would purchase a truck at a car dealership if the salesman said, “hey, if you buy this truck right now, you’ll be entered into a drawing to get it for free!“? That is essentially what Utah did.

Utah did get $9.6 million from the feds to set up the SLDS (Statewide Longitudinal Database System, known as P20W) through the 2009 State Fiscal Stabilization Fund (SFSF) application . Then, on Utah’s Race to the Top documents, we kept filing “assurances” with the feds that we were fully implementing Common Core (standards, assessments, interoperable database, redistribution of teachers, turnaround experts, etc…). It was a great way for them to keep us advancing the agenda without having received any money. Even our ESEA waiver continued the pattern. How much money has the federal government given Utah through ARRA, and other fiscal stimulus packages? $741 million per Arne Duncan’s announcement in 2010, including money tied to the SFSF where we made assurances to the feds.

Another of Mary’s major points was that Utah had full control over the standards and that we made changes to them when we adopted them. I told her this was false when we adopted Common Core and that we had submitted documents to the federal government acknowledging that we would adopt the standards “as written.” She told me that was absolutely wrong.

For those interested in the facts, here’s what Utah included on page 87 of our application to join the SBAC (Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortia) which shows the August 10, 2010 State School Board meeting minutes and contains this paragraph. That was the school board meeting when we finalized adoption of Common Core. Looks to me like we adopted the standards “as written.”


Pg. 91 from the same application:


Further, when Governor Herbert was telling everyone we didn’t have Common Core, we had Utah Core, I confirmed with Superintendent Menlove that in fact we did have Common Core for math and ELA.

Mary stated that we made changes to the standards when we adopted them, but that is incorrect. The board was correct above in stating we were adopting them “as written.”

If you click the link to the Menlove article and go down to the comments, you will find one from Randall Lund that states he wanted to compare Common Core and the Utah core standards for ELA and math to know for himself if they were identical. He did a line by line comparison and he stated:

1. The standards in the two documents are exactly word for word identical, right down to the footnotes. Nothing was added, deleted, or modified.

There is more to Randall’s comment there if you wish to read it.

This only makes sense. It was well known nationally that to participate in SBAC a state had to be on the Common Core standards “as written,” otherwise how could a common assessment be created for all the states in the consortium? When we succeeded in getting Utah out of SBAC, I got an email from Ze’ev Wurman, former Bush education advisor, where he stated:

“Congratulations to Utah!!! The first domino to fall from the Common Core bandwagon! Not only will Utah be able to offer extra 15%, but it can shift content across grades. It can even — perish the thought — offer authentic algebra in eighth grade!”

At this point it was possible for Utah to make changes to the standards and recently the state has modified some number of standards, but not when we adopted them.

Too bad Utah doesn’t offer authentic algebra in eighth grade by default. Under our current “integrated method” of Common Core adoption, most kids don’t complete algebra till 9th grade, while California children were having massive success getting students proficient in algebra by 8th grade. So naturally like any government bureaucracy, CA switched to Common Core from something that was working well in an effort to try and get Race to the Top funds…

I would invite Mary and others to watch this excellent presentation by Dr. Duke Pesta. It will help dispel the notion that Common Core was state led. He plays actual video segments of David Coleman talking about the creation of Common Core, how Bill Gates funded it and said we won’t know for a decade if Common Core even works and how aligning the standards and assessments mean curriculum will also align bringing the whole system into convergence. Stop taking my word for it and listen to the creators say it themselves.

Dr. Duke Pesta - Common Core from Farce to Fiction

Oh, also check out this Washington Post article by Lindsey Layton on the Gates/Coleman/Wilhoit collaboration to create Common Core. It’s got lots of facts as well.

Fact Check on Governor Herbert’s Letter to Delegates

Ed. Note: Those who are serving as state delegates have received no less than five communications in the past week from Governor Herbert related to Common Core where he asserts that he is opposed to Common Core. Anyone who believes this is either unaware of the past six years of history or willfully closing their eyes and sticking their head in the ground. Just today I received a robocall from the Lt. Governor, Spencer Cox, in which he states Governor Herbert has “fought against federal control of education including Common Core.” What respect I had for the Lt. Governor has been dramatically reduced.  What follows below is a rebuttal by Alyson Williams of the letter delegates received from Governor Herbert.

Don’t miss the other article exposing how involved Governor Herbert has been in promoting Common Core.

In a letter to State delegates dated April 7, 2016, Governor Herbert listed seven points, concluding with a personal note, to clarify his position on Common Core in Utah. A fact check against other sources follows each excerpted point below:

1) I have called for the elimination of the federal Department of Education.

TRUE (but don’t miss the fine print): While the topic didn’t come up in his remarks to Congress, he did say there should not be a federal Department of Education on his Facebook page: 

Governor Herbert NCLB

Now for the fine print, here are his remarks to Congress:

In short, the Governor outlines how instead of the Federal Department of Education controlling nationwide policies for education, Governors should collude to set nationwide policy for education. Calling for the elimination of the Department of Ed while advocating for an extragovernmental process to accomplish a different centralization of power is not a principle of constitutional federalism. It is a Constitution work around.

2) I signed into law SB287 – a bill that makes it illegal for the federal government to have any control.

FALSE: No law in our state makes it “illegal” for the federal government to have “any control.” 2012 SB287 ( began as a list of conditions under which Utah “shall exit” any federal education agreement. However, by the time it reached the Governor’s pen, it said, “may exit.” The degree to which Utah avoids federal parameters over local education policy is dependent on the people we elect to various positions of authority and whether they will take action not because they “shall” but because they “may” do so.  Governor Herbert has taken great pains to emphasize Utah’s legal authority to take an alternative path to Common Core and yet he has not advocated doing it. As the chair of the National Governor’s Association, a key stakeholder in the Common Core State Standards Initiative, he accepted a nationally prominent role in promoting these reforms.

3) I called for Attorney General Sean Reyes to conduct an exhaustive investigation to determine whether or not the state of Utah had ceded authority over our education system to the federal government on Common Core or any other standards. He concluded that Utah has not. We control our standards, our curriculum, our textbooks and our testing.

FALSE: Herbert did ask AG Sean Reyes to conduct an investigation but within carefully selected parameters, not an “exhaustive” one. The report provided legal justification for whether Utah could join or exit Common Core while avoiding a conversation Utahans can’t seem to have with this Governor about whether Utah should have joined or would exit Common Core.

As far as ceding authority to the federal government, the AG report acknowledges “the USDOE, by imposing those waiver conditions, has infringed upon state and local authority over public education. States have consented to the infringement, through federal coercion…”

A full response to this report by a Utah teacher can be found here:

Download the AG report here:

4) I commissioned Utah Valley University President Matt Holland and a group of experts to review our education standards. With over 7,000 public comments, this committee recommended improvements to standards and the state board has implemented many of these proposed changes.

UNDISCLOSED BIAS:  Throughout his campaign, Governor Herbert has referred to his Common Core review commission using only Matt Holland’s recognizable name, leaving out that the original chair, Rich Kendell (eventual co-chair with Holland), was an advisor for Prosperity 2020 and Education First. Prosperity 2020 Chair Allan Hall was also on the commission as was Rob Brems, a member of the Utah Data Alliance Executive Board. (Common standards are an invaluable asset for data collection.) All are highly qualified people, who, it must be noted, publicly favored these reforms before this commission was assembled.  There was just one k12 teacher on the commission, from a private school, and she did not concur with the report but her reasons for dissent are not specifically listed. 

In another example of this one-sided approach, the report references two experts who came to Utah to testify about the quality of the Standards but does not disclose their previous connection to the Common Core State Standards Initiative. Timothy Shanahan from the University of Chicago was on the writing committee for the standards, and David Pearson from UC Berkeley was on the Common Core Standards validation committee. Both have published works and give seminars to help teachers implement Common Core around the country.  The concerns of the dissenting members of the Common Core validation committee who have also submitted testimony in Utah were never mentioned.

LIMITATIONS ON PUBLIC COMMENT: Public comment was limited to making suggestions standard by standard and not on the overall scope and sequence of the framework, or on things that are absent from the standards.

NO MEANINGFUL REVISIONS: As far as proposed changes coming from the report, there is a list of changes to the standards, but they are all corrections of typographical errors or clarifications of the wording.  (p. 33) Other less specific recommendations are scattered throughout, but are seemingly limited to organizational considerations like better cross-referencing between the standards and supporting materials with no substantive revisions.

Perhaps the most illuminating aspect of the report is this statement that is repeated several times regarding the natural limitation to making meaningful changes to standards that are intended, as a priority, to be common across the U.S.:

“The Utah Core Standards can be revised and improved over time in accordance with Utah students’ needs and based on sound research, while staying similar enough to other states to assist transferability at grade level.”

RISKS FOR REMEDIATION UNCHANGED: Another conclusion of note was whether Common Core would reduce college remediation (starts pg 27): “Students who master Secondary Math I, II, and III standards will be very well prepared for postsecondary education and training programs.” In other words, in this report that ironically emphasizes the need to teach more “critical thinking,” we see an example of circular reasoning: students who master the content (or, who do not need remediation) will not need remediation… just like students who mastered content in previous math programs in Utah.

UNKNOWN OUTCOMES: This is immediately followed by the observation that we won’t truly know how college readiness will be impacted until we see how the kids who have been through Common Core get to college – underlining one of the biggest concerns of parents, that this is a statewide (nationwide) experiment on a scale that will reduce alternatives and inhibit the innovation driven by competing ideas. This experiment will affect an entire generation of Utah students but we can only hypothesize about the outcome: “Research on students who complete all of the grade levels of the mathematics standards will be required to verify that the standards (and their effective implementation) make a difference.” (p.28)

A link to the report:

5) I, and others, successfully lobbied Congress to repeal the No Child Left Behind Act and return education authority to the states. This policy change was heralded by the Wall Street Journal as the “largest devolution of federal control to the states in a quarter-century.”

FALSE: ESSA didn’t repeal “No Child Left Behind,” it reauthorized it. NCLB is just a nickname for one of the previous reauthorizations of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act that has been due for reauthorization since 2007. This reauthorization was dubbed the “Every Student Succeeds Act.” It was revised to eliminate one of the most unpopular aspects of NCLB, the penalties for not meeting targets for AYP, but put nearly everything that had been pushed in the federal grants and waivers under Obama’s Department of Education into federal statute. Obama’s Secretary of Education said everything his administration had “promoted and proposed forever” is embedded in ESSA:

Here’s a letter sent to Utah’s Congressional delegation from a group of local parents highlighting a few of their concerns with ESSA:

Every member of Utah’s Congressional delegation, with the exception of Senator Hatch, voted against ESSA.

6) Assessing the progress of our students is important, but we want to maximize the time they spend learning, not the time they spend taking tests. This session, I worked with the Legislature and signed two bills into law that reduce high-stakes testing in our schools (SAGE testing).

TRUE-ish: Governor Herbert did sign the bill removing the high stakes for SAGE assessments from teacher evaluations and another bill that makes the SAGE test optional for 11th graders (who would likely be taking a different standardized test for college application purposes.) It is not clear how either of those reduce testing unless, in the first case, it is assumed that teachers will require less test practice if their evaluation isn’t directly impacted. In the second case, it’s likely just making room for a different high-stakes test.

7) Every budgetary proposal and policy decision I make is to give more authority and discretion to local school districts and local schools. I have continually advocated for increases to funding that gets to the classroom and can be tailored for local needs.

FALSE: Not every policy proposal. Much of the Governor’s Excellence in Education plan dating back to 2010 and the associated calls for additional funding have been in the context of his Education 2020 plan to expand state educational policy to include early childhood education (preschool, all day kindergarten), workforce alignment initiatives, data collection, and school and teacher accountability which is money for bureaucracy and additional programs, not an increase for the average classroom. He did call for additional $ to go into the WPU in his 2017 budget.

On a personal note, I have eleven grandchildren in Utah public schools. I’ve seen the frustration they and their parents have had over math assignments they didn’t understand and teachers struggled to teach. I have expressed my dissatisfaction with the flawed implementation of new standards, especially in math…

NOTE: It seems too common that when a top-down program fails it is blamed on the “implementation.” This is a key reason for true local control and for programs to be initiated at the level where the expertise, resources and student needs are best understood. Teachers should not be scapegoats for programs chosen by politicians.



SAGE Validity Part 2: Dr. Thompson Responds

After sharing what Alpine school district board member’s Brian Halladay and Wendy Hart wrote concerning the results of the validity test Florida performed on Utah’s SAGE test, Dave Thomas, a state school board member wrote several legislators a brief rebuttal. He stated:

I read the Independent Verification of the Psychometric Validity for the Florida Standards Assessment, Evaluation of FSA Final Report (Alpine Testing Solutions, August 2015) and came to an entirely opposite conclusion. The report expressly validated the SAGE test (see Conclusions 1,2,5, and 6).  The problems noted in the report (see Conclusions 4, 7, and pp. 77-103) were not the result of an invalid SAGE test, but rather these had to do with Florida’s administration of the test (technology problems, login issues, head phone issues, insufficient training of the proctors, and late delivery of materials) and the fact that SAGE is aligned to the Utah Core Standards and not to the Florida standards (pp. 47-48).  While the two sets of standards are similar, the Report notes that there are differences which make SAGE not fully aligned to the Florida standards.  For example, Florida uses Algebra I, Geometry and Algebra II, while Utah uses an integrated math model.  Such differences present problems for the long term use of the SAGE test in Florida.  Consequently, the Report rightly recommends that Florida get their own test.  This discussion about misalignment is the reason I have long discouraged reliance upon NAEP, which uses its own standards to compile its test; standards that are not aligned with Utah.

I would highly recommend reading the Conclusions to the Report (pp. 118-121)..   I would caution all policy makers to be careful about focusing on isolated comments in a 150+ page Report which may be taken out of context.

David L. Thomas

In response to Mr. Thomas’ statement, Dr. Gary Thompson wrote the following rebuttal.

Vice-Chair Thomas’s response…failed to answer many important issues vital to the economic, educational, financial, and moral health of our community.   His non-response was a attempt to get stakeholders in education to focus on irrelevant “trees” at the expense of the “forest” comprised of our children.    That is unacceptable to me as citizen, father, and local clinical community scientist.

This blog post is about the “forest”:

1.  What exactly IS validity?  (See below)

2.  Did the Utah SAGE test undergo a validity study? (No. See below) 

3.  How important are validity issues in educational testing to your children? (Extremely.  See below)

4.  Will the next 9 pages be the most important education information considered for parents of Utah and Florida’s “divergent learning” students?  (Probably.  See below)

To continue, reading Dr. Thompson’s expert analysis, please go directly to his article here:

The Test Validity Trojan Horse: Utah and Florida’s Dangerous Game of Education Poker With Our Public School Children


The arguments against partisan elections – SB 104 S2

SB 104 is the education elections and reporting amendments bill, also known as the “partisan elections” bill. Today the senate voted 21-7-1 on it’s second reading to pass it. I believe it’ll still have a third reading and another vote but those votes shouldn’t change significantly. It has been amended so that local districts only do partisan elections if the student population in the district exceeds 20,000.

In short, this is the only way to have school board elections be fair and transparent to the voting public. Otherwise we have the 1-party education establishment campaigning for their choice of candidate and telling everyone how it’s unfair that they have competition to who they deem the best candidate.

Today, the Utah School Boards Association (USBA) sent out an email to all school board members, superintendents, business officials and education leaders around the state giving them their talking points to oppose this bill. Here is their email with my comments in-between segments.

This bill will either create the need to make a Constitutional change or will create a lawsuit as Article X, Section 8 of the Utah Constitution indicates that “No religious or partisan test or qualification shall be required as a condition of employment, admission, or attendance in the state’s education systems.”  This is read to include both state and local school board members.  It appears clear that Utah’s founding leaders intended NOT to have partisan politics influence their public education system.

The public in Utah is not likely to make a Constitutional change related to partisan politics in public education oversight and governance.

This item is ridiculous. This is merely saying we can’t put a litmus test on a particular office such as “only Mormons or members of the Democratic Party can hold that position.” It’s why the Framers put similar language into the U.S. Constitution, which reads: “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”  Partisan elections ARE LEGAL and used in a majority of political races in Utah in order to closely vet candidates for office.

Local school board candidates are well known by their constituents, both in rural and in urban Utah.  Local school board candidates often walk door to door to talk with each constituent.  They do not need further vetting by a narrow group of party delegates.

Well known? A school board member runs every 4 years by putting up yard signs and walking the streets asking people to vote for him/her. Sometimes they pass out a flier with their talking points. Attendance at school board meetings is pathetic. Nobody is watching candidates and an extremely small number know anything about the candidates, even just their name! Vetting by a representative sample of every neighborhood in an area is both logical and logistical. When a neighborhood gets together at a caucus meeting and elects people to speak with candidates, they are picking people JUST LIKE THEMSELVES to go ask questions that get beyond the sound bites candidates deliver on fliers and their websites. This is grass roots involvement at its best.

Can you imagine a parent who wants non-partisan elections for school board members, actually spending even 15 minutes with each of 6 school board candidates to try and contact and vet each of them and make an intelligent vote in a primary race to reduce the field? It isn’t going to happen among the masses.

The bill creates a vacuum for many patrons of the district who may not be affiliated with a party.  School board members will largely be held accountable to their delegates that elected them, leaving parents and taxpayers from other views to feel as if on the fringes.  This is less representation, not more.  School board members should be accountable to all members of the taxpaying public and all parents.

Depending on where one lives, there may be a majority of people from one political party. Other areas will flip that or be more balanced. Every party should run candidates that stand for their principles and the members of those parties should vet the candidates to see who has the best ideas so they put their very best candidate forward.

Party delegates are not viewed by the majority of Utahns as representative of their views on many matters, as has been shown most recently by the Count My Vote initiative.

The Buy My Vote initiative is hardly representative of an informed populace.

Delegates may or may not know much about their public schools.  Volunteers and other school community leaders are often in public schools and are much more helpful in vetting candidates for local school board races.  This undoubtedly holds true for state board candidates as well.

Dear USBA, delegates are our neighbors. They have families. They have children in school. They volunteer in schools. They are not from Mars or Venus. When someone is elected as a delegate, it’s a neighbor who we trust to make good decisions after weighing ALL the facts obtained from candidates and their opponents. This holds true for both local and state delegates.

Direct, nonpartisan school board races for local and state races, is already constitutional and restores the voice of the people to this electoral process.

NEWS FLASH: PARTISAN RACE ARE CONSTITUTIONAL. They actually get used quite often in Utah and it’s a big part of what made this the “best run state” in the nation. Non-partisan races never have, and never will “restore the voice of the people.” They are the races that special interests dominate because there is nobody to vet the candidates so their money goes to the “beauty contest” where whoever has the most advertising and “it’s for the children” sound bites wins with the help of the single-party education establishment. Through their channels, they get the word out through the school system as to who to vote for. Non-partisan races only work in small areas. Certainly not in areas where a candidate might not even live in your city.

For those who have further questions or concerns about partisan races, I invite you to read these pages:

Action Item: Email your senator and representative and ask them to vote FOR SB 104, education elections and reporting amendments. Get their email addresses from:

Bill Schmidt Argues that CC Math is Two Years Behind

How do Common Core math standards compare to high achieving nations? We can look at “Benchmarking for Success,” a late 2008 clarion call for Common Core by NGA/CCSSO/Achieve.

There, on page, 24, when it describes “Rigor” it says:

Rigor. By the eighth grade, students in top-performing nations are studying algebra and geometry, while in the U.S., most eighth-grade math courses focus on arithmetic. In science, American eighth-graders are memorizing the parts of the eye, while students in top-performing nations are learning about how the eye actually works by capturing photons that are translated into images by the brain. In fact, the curriculum studied by the typical American eighth-grader is two full years behind the curriculum being studied by eighth-graders in high-performing countries.” (added emphasis)

This, in turn, cites an editorial-style 2005 piece by Bill Schmidt (one of the CC math standards authors) in the AFT’s American Educator (here):

“By the middle grades, the top achieving countries do not intend that children should continue to study basic computation skills. Rather, they begin the transition to the study of algebra, including linear equations and functions, geometry and, in some cases, basic trigonometry. By the end of eighth grade, children in these countries have mostly completed mathematics equivalent to U.S. high school courses in algebra I and geometry. By contrast, most U.S. students are destined for the most part to continue the study of arithmetic. In fact, we estimate that, at the end of eighth grade, U.S. students are some two or more years behind their counterparts around the world.” (added emphasis)

In other words, Bill Schmidt himself argues that by the end of grade 8 students in high achieving countries cover both Algebra 1 and Geometry, leaving grade 9 to Algebra 2. Contrast that with Common Core that expects Algebra 1 completion in grade 9 for students that don’t accelerate with extra work. In contrast, in the last decade, California, which benchmarked its standards to be six months behind the high achieving nations, tripled the number of students proficient in algebra 1 by 8th grade, and was actually a 5-6x increase for low-socio economic students and minorities. A stunning achievement which should be the model math standards Utah adopts. No need to enter “honors” programs at an early age. No need to double up on classes or take summer coursework. Just the standard path for students. Details here.

Utah’s integrated math is not the same as other nations

There is a lot of confusion in Utah when the state office of education says they adopted the “integrated” math method in order to be like the high achieving nations of the world, and then learns just how different Common Core and the integrated method are.

With permission I am reprinting this email from Ze’ev Wurman.  Between 2007 and 2009, Ze’ev served as senior policy adviser in the office of Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development, in the U.S. Department of Education. He has been involved in numerous standards reviews and understands the issues of Common Core and its failure to match up to high achieving nations standards.

This is Ze’ev’s explanation of integrated math as it exists in other high achieving countries.


First, I need to explain that what we call “integrated math” in the US is not at all like any math, “integrated” or not, they practice overseas. This is important because people peddling integrated math here claim that “this is what high achievers do overseas,” particularly for middle/high grades (7-9 there, 9-11 here).

What countries like Japan or Singapore do, is they spend a large part of the year (a semester, perhaps two trimesters) on teaching, say, algebra, and then they spend another large chunk (a semester or a trimester) on teaching, say, geometry. This way, the integrity and cohesion of the subject matter is preserved.  Prerequisites are taught before they are needed, and generally things progress logically and hierarchically. Similarly, the geometry (or probability in higher grades) are mostly self-contained and may rely on what has been taught during the algebra period for the necessary prerequisite skills where needed. To Americans, used to teaching a full year of either algebra or geometry (those Carnegie Units still drive us!) this may seem “integrated.” Incidentally, in some instances there is even a separate teacher who teaches the algebra part of the year, versus another one who steps in to teach the geometry part.

But the American integrated program — and I am unaware of any exception — look very different. They are essentially programs that intermix the teaching of disparate content within the same units, or at most across short (4-6 weeks) units. The first type is often known as a Problem-Based Curriculum (or instruction) and works like this (think Connected or Investigations math): a “big” problem is posed that has multiple elements — geometry, calculations, perhaps a bit of graphing and/or algebra, perhaps a bit of probability or estimation. Then the class approaches the problem and as it “peels” it like an onion, the teacher is supposed to teach the kids the required knowledge as it becomes necessary. The idea behind it is that such problem-based instruction will offer a meaningful reason and  justification to the students for the mathematical learning, rather than be taught as an “isolated skill” or “artificial (i.e., boring) non-real-life” problem. Unfortunately, it is essentially impossible to build a coherent curriculum around such large problems, because their needs for particular knowledge and skills do not follow any hierarchical and coherent progression. So you may need a bit about calculating a perimeter of complex figures, mixed with a bit about factorization and prime numbers (if the problem requires whole numbers as an answer) with some graphing thrown in. The result is that kids don’t develop knowledge and skills in a systematic and thoughtful manner, but rather learn disjointed bits and pieces of knowledge that rarely make sense or last for a long time. Integrated programs that are NOT problem-based have a different issue — they essentially interleave short units of different sub-disciplines, so teachers cannot build a solid base of the discipline’s body of knowledge, terms, and practices, before the class moves onto another sub-discipline that has a different set of terms and conventions. Again, think of the conventions in algebra versus geometry versus probability and stats. Consequently, no solid base of any discipline is developed because not enough time is spent to allow the student to internalize it over a lengthy period of time.

I am attaching a chart I collected from the 15 years of STAR administration. STAR offered both the course-based path through HS math, as well as an “integrated” one, and it had two separate sets of assessments for each path (same items, but partitioned differently across the years). As you can see, in the beginning about 25% of students were in integrated math in California. By 2013 there were fewer that 1.5% taking integrated. Nobody forced the school districts to abandon integrated — they just saw for themselves that kids in course-based math do much better, so they abandoned integrated in droves.

But nobody is paying attention to history :-)



(Click image for larger size – also see this article for the dramatic success of the CA standards)


CA STAR Exam results



A Reply to Superintendent Menlove

The State Superintendent recently responded to someone who had concerns about Common Core with this email:


Mrs. ______,

I understand you and others do not like Common Core.

Can you help me understand what you think our standards should be.  Should we have standards?  Do you think our standards should align with tests our children will take to determine college entrance and scholarship opportunities?  Do you think our standards should align with what the Utah System of Higher Education has determined our student need to be successful in college in Utah?   Which specific standards would you eliminate or change?  What standards are missing and need to be added?

I invite you and others concerned with Common Core to be part of the solution.

Martell Menlove


I’d like to respond to the Superintendent line by line to make sure I address each of these points.

Dr. Menlove,

>I understand you and others do not like Common Core.

Good start establishing common ground.

>Can you help me understand what you think our standards should be.

Certainly. They should be strong standards on par with what the best states in the country were using before Common Core. In fact, our Utah 2007 math standards were better than Common Core so I’d suggest we return to those or else consider using CA’s, MA’s, or IN’s pre-Common Core math standards which have been recognized as exceeding Common Core. Our Utah ELA standards weren’t great according to the Fordham Foundation, but Massachusetts had some great standards that Sandra Stotsky helped create. Did you know she volunteered to come to Utah for free and help us write the best standards in the country with the help and input of Utah teachers? That’s what I’d suggest we do for ELA. This combo would give Utah children a real advantage and we would actually have a Utah core that wasn’t a relabeling of Common Core.

>Should we have standards?

Is this meant to be thought-provoking or just an expression of frustration that a growing segment of the public is feeling disenfranchised and complaining to our public education leaders? Standards are important. Standardizing all students on the same standards at the same pace is destructive. If you’d like more information on this, please watch Sir Ken Robinson’s just released TED video on the problems of No Child Left Behind.

>Do you think our standards should align with tests our children will take to determine college entrance and scholarship opportunities?

What was wrong with the ACT, SAT and AP exams before they were being aligned(ACT, SAT and AP) to Common Core? Nobody complained about them not being aligned to our standards. Why start now? It just becomes a graduation test instead of a test of broader knowledge. If a student graduates from high school and gets A’s on their Common Core aligned computer adaptive tests, why do we even need the ACT, SAT, and AP exams? They’d be redundant and make students sit through the same exam content questions.

>Do you think our standards should align with what the Utah System of Higher Education has determined our student need to be successful in college in Utah?

To my knowledge, the USHE didn’t participate in the creation of Common Core. However, USHE professors did participate in the creation of our 2007 math standards. Why are you rejecting the work they did on the 2007 math standards in favor of what out-of-state special interests created in order to profit their companies?

>Which specific standards would you eliminate or change?

I’m hoping you can see the wisdom of not picking flecks of manure from chocolate chip cookies. The batch is tainted and it’s time for a batch made from fresh ingredients.

>What standards are missing and need to be added?

Dr. Menlove, what standards were missing in our 2007 math standards that needed to be added? Perhaps it was the ones the external reviewer Dr. Hung-Hsi Wu from Berkeley said needed to be modified that the USOE refused to fix to give us A rated standards. Still, we wound up with A- rated standards that the Fordham Foundation said are actually clearer than Common Core. So why did we need to change? Oh yeah, the feds offered us money if we’d switch and then didn’t give us any money when we complied. I guess that’s what happens when you gamble with the dealer…

>I invite you and others concerned with Common Core to be part of the solution.

We’ve actually given you a solution. Why do you resist higher standards for Utah children? Aren’t our children deserving of the very best education? With the rest of the country following mediocre standards, why do you not want Utah children to have the advantage of a better education? Why do you not listen to your constituents solutions? Wasn’t the state board who appointed you, also elected as watchdogs for the public? Why don’t they listen to the public? With 65.5% of GOP state delegates getting informed about Common Core and rejecting it, what is your plan to listen to the people and act on their solutions? Why is your solution for the public to just accept whatever you and the USOE decide is best for our children? That’s not an acceptable solution from a public servant.

Oak Norton


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!