Category Archives: Answering Charges

Christel Swasey Responds to Brenda Hales

On July 10th, 2012, a public forum was held where 4 visiting experts shared concerns with Common Core. A press release was sent out earlier in the day causing Brenda Hales, a USOE administrator, to post a statement on the Utah Public Education website trying to offer the official line on Common Core. Christel Swasey, a Utah public education teacher, challenged her statement with this fact filled rebuttal. I encourage you to read Brenda’s post as well so you can see what’s being said by the USOE.


To Whom It May Concern:

The following information directly conflicts with this week’s statement about Common Core and national educational reforms as published by the USOE at

The following information has links to references so that you can verify what is claimed, unlike the unreferenced information given by the USOE.

1. Personally identifiable student data will be shared with governmental and non-governmental entities, both in-state and out of state, as never before.

The Federal Register outlines, on page 51, that it is not a necessity for a school to get student or parental consent any longer before sharing personally identifiable information; that has been reduced to the level of optional.

“It is a best practice to keep the public informed when you disclose personally identifiable information from education records.”

Dec. 2011 regulations, which the Dept. of Education made without Congressional approval and for which they are now being sued by EPIC, literally loosen, rather than strengthen, parental consent rules and other rules.

A lawyer at EPIC disclosed that these privacy intrusions affect not only children, but anyone who ever attended any college or university (that archives records, unless it is a privately funded university).

Because the 2011 changes stretch and redefine terms like “authorized representative” and “educational program” to include non-governmental agencies and many additional governmental agencies, effectively, there is no privacy regulation governing schools anymore, on the federal level. (Thanks to Utah legislators who are on the case, we might soon have stronger privacy laws to protect Utahns from the new federal intrusion).

The types of information that the Department will collect includes so much more than academic information: it includes biometric information (DNA, fingerprints, iris patterns) and parental income, nicknames, medical information, extracurricular information, and much more. See page 4 at and see

Utah’s federally-funded State Longitudinal Database System (SLDS) exists for the purpose of sharing data not only among state agencies but from the state to the US Dept. of Ed.  The SLDS also exists to “manage” and “disaggregate” educational information within the state.   –A briefing was given in Utah, August 2010 by John Brandt, who is the USOE Technology Director and a member of the federal Dept. of Education, a member of the federal NCES, and a chair member of CCSSO (an organization that helped develop and promote the Common Core national standards.) On page 5 of Brandt’s online powerpoint, he explains that student records and transcripts can be used from school districts to the USOE or USHE “and beyond,” and can also be shared between the USOE and the US Department of Education.

Utah’s P-20 workforce council exists to track citizens starting in preschool, and to “forge organizational and technical bonds and to build the data system needed to make informed decisions” for stakeholders both in and outside Utah. —

The linking of data from preschool to post-secondary and on to workforce, both locally and to D.C., allows agencies easy access, technologically and in terms of legal policy.

The SLDS and P-20 systems were paid for by the federal government and they transform the way data is shared– and the federally stated purpose for all the data gathering is educational research– yet this also allows the state and federal governments to track, steer and even punish teachers, students and citizens more easily.

Data linking changes are not just technological in nature; there are also changes being made in regulations and policies that make former privacy protection policies all but meaningless.  The changes are so outrageous, harming parental consent law and privacy concerns so much that the Department of Education has been sued over it. The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) sued the Dept. of Education, under the Administrative Procedure Act, arguing that the Dept. of Ed’s regulations that changed the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act in Dec. 2011 exceeded the Department of Education’s authority and are contrary to law.

The Federal Register of December 2011 outlines the Dept. of Education’s new, Congressionally un-approved regulations, that decrease parental involvement and increase the number of agencies that have access to private student data:  (See page 52-57)

Although the Federal Register describes countless agencies, programs and “authorities” that may access personally identifiable student information, it uses permissive rather than mandatory language.  The obligatory language comes up in the case of the Cooperative Agreement between the Department of Education and the states’ testing consortium –of which Utah is still a member:

In that document, states are obligated to share data with the federal government “on an ongoing basis,” to give status reports, phone conferences and other information, and must synchronize tests “across consortia”. This triangulation nationalizes the testing system and puts the federal government in the middle of the data collecting program.

For more information about the history of similar actions taken by the federal Dept. of Education that infringe upon state law and freedom, see the white paper by ROPE (Restore Oklahoma Public Education) entitled “Analysis of Recent Education Reforms and the Resulting Impact on Student Privacy”  —

For understanding of the motivation of the federal government, read some of the US Dept. of Education Arne Duncan’s or Obama’s speeches that show the passion with which the federal agency seeks access to data to control teachers and educational decisions.

2. The State Board of Education has virtually no control over the national standards it has adopted for Utah. 

Governing documents of Common Core state that the Utah School Board may not delete anything from the national standards and can only add 15% to them.  If Utah needs to add about a whole year’s worth of improvement to a given standard, as is the case with the 6th and 9th grade Common Core “math bubble” of repetition experienced this year in districts that implemented Common Core math, we can’t add more –and remain the same as Common Core nationally.  Our 6th and 9th graders learn no math for an entire year because of the lack of local control.  (Prior to Common Core, 8th graders learned Algebra I.  Under Common Core, 9th graders learn Algebra I.)  Because the NGA placed the standards under copyright, Utah can not amend them in any way.   To illustrate, even a member of the state school board couldn’t do anything more than pull her grandkids out of public school to deal with the situation.  The school board member home schooled her 8th grade grandson and 9th grade granddaughter this year, “since our school district had decided to adopt the Common Core for every grade rather than what was proposed by the state. It was proposed that we only adopt for the 6th and 9th grade and provide alternative programs for those students who already had the skills being taught to all through the Common Core.”

Additionally, any changes (up to 15%) that Utah makes to the national standards will never be taken into account on the common standardized tests.  The test developer, WestEd, affirmed that “in order for this system to have a real impact within a state, the state will need to adopt the CCSS, i.e., not have two sets of standards.”

Anecdotally: those Utah teachers who love Common Core confuse the academic standards themselves with the methodologies being used to implement them.  New methodologies in many cases are excellent, but have nothing to do with national standards.  They are used in non-Common Core states.  Innovative methodologies that work well are not tied to the common national standards, which are only academic levels that could just as easily be higher or lower, and can still be taught free of Common Core’s rules, using the good methodologies.

Utah has lost its autonomy over standards and assessments. The next time Utah reviews standards and wishes to raise the bar, what will happen? There is no CCSS amendment process.  Also, since most states joined Common Core, and we’re virtually all the same; where is the collaboration, competition or better example to aspire to?

The common national standards were adopted due to federal recommendations during the initial Race to the Top application for funding for federal money.  Fortunately, since Utah didn’t receive the money, we can escape Common Core without serious financial problems. And we should.  Despite the letter of March 7, 2012 from Arne Duncan, stating “states have the sole right to set learning standards,” legally binding documents conflict with that Constitutional right, as well as with Duncan’s promises and with the Cooperative Agreement Duncan made with the SBAC.

When the Dept. of Education forced states to choose between No Child Left Behind and Common Core, they proved that Common Core is just the next federal program.

The ESEA Flexibility releases “waiver winning” states from No Child Left Behind law, only on conditions of implementing Common Core.  On page 8 of the ESEA Flexibility document (updated June 7, 2012)  found at, please read:   “A State’s college- and career-ready standards must be either (1) standards that are common to a significant number of States; or (2) standards that are approved by a State network of institutions of higher education”.

Thus, since Utah chose option one, we are stuck in Common Core by choosing to accept the NCLB waiver. On page 9 of the same document, we read:

“ ‘Standards that are common to a significant number of States’ means standards that are substantially identical across all States in a consortium that includes a significant number of States.  A State may supplement such standards with additional standards, provided that the additional standards do not exceed 15 percent of the State’s total standards for a content area. ”

Utah not only has to stick with the Common Core State Standards by having accepted NCLB; we also are restricted from adding to “our” standards.

3. Utah applied for, but fortunately did not receive a Race to the Top (RTTT) grant.   This means Utah can leave Common Core without having to pay back a grant, something that some other states wishing to flee Common Core’s entanglements cannot do.

But, because the SBAC did receive a large RTTT grant for assessment development and because Utah is a member of SBAC, we are bound to the federal government’s data collection rules and the national standards/assessments, with Washington State our fiscal agent as long as we remain an SBAC member.

The Department of Education first incentivized the adoption of the Common Core, and then incentivized adoption of national testing.  Utah is under obligations associated with the SBAC grant as long as we remain a member of that consortium.

Exiting the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium system requires getting federal approval.  But if Utah withdraws from the consortium via the formal exit process, we will then no longer be obligated to share data with the federal government and share nationally synchronized tests, but we will still be allowed to share data with the federal government under the new FERPA regulatory changes, unless EPIC wins their lawsuit against the Dept. of Education this year.

To sum up: Common Core is very similar to Obamacare.  Governor Herbert said very eloquently that Obama’s  “Affordable Care Act imposes a one-size-fits-all plan on all states, effectively driving us to the lowest common denominator. It results in burdensome regulation, higher costs, and a massive, budget-busting… expansion.”   If you substitute the word “Common Core” for “Affordable Care Act,” you’ll understand what the federal education push is all about.  The Federal Government did not initiate both the educational and the medical programs, but does control both.

-Christel Swasey


fact vs. myth

Sutherland Institute Issues Report Against Common Core

On Monday, the Sutherland Institute released their report concerning Common Core based on research they have been conducting and they agree with us that Common Core is a major entanglement and needs to go.

The executive summary is here and it’s an excellent 2 page read.

From the conclusion: “Utah is at a critical decision point. The longer it waits to change course, the more difficult it will be. To maintain Utah’s independence, the state should immediately exit Common Core and all agreements related to it.

The more in-depth analysis is here and it’s 17 pages (5 of which are footnotes and it uses a larger font and generous spacing).

Among their guiding principles they list these 3 key points:

1. Utah standards should be broad in substance and application in order to preserve a personalized learning environment for each individual student.

2. Utah standards should be the best possible.

3. Utah standards should be independent, with the ability to be changed at will.

The report then addresses these three points and shows how Common Core does not match up. Common Core seeks to undermine the individuality of students and preserves the assembly-line mentality that all students should learn the same things at the same points in time. There are acknowledged standards that are better than Common Core and if Utah were to adopt any standards, they should be the best available. And finally, Sutherland correctly points out that Utah agreed to adopt Common Core as written and can only add 15% to them. To change the standards we would have to convince the consortium of states that modifications were desired.

They conclude that Utah has the ability to create it’s own high standards, be flexible in the approach to learning and keep our education system independent.

We totally agree.


Email Exchange with Dixie Allen on the State Board

Paul Rolly gives new meaning to the word spin after publishing an article in the SL Tribune today indicating that I got into a “vicious e-mail exchange” with Dixie Allen of the State School Board and that I became “unhinged”. So I decided I should publish the email exchange since it’s obvious that others are floating the exchange around and it now needs to be seen in full light.

Mr. Rolly also makes several false assumptions in his article such as saying this is a right-wing movement. It is not. There are Democrats I have corresponded with such as Lynn Stoddard, a respected retired educator who has been outspoken against Common Core for its inability to individualize education for students.  Lynn just had an op-ed published in the Deseret News which I encourage everyone to read. (link)

It’s humorous as well that Mr. Rolly says we’ve “[requested] volumes of records” when in fact we have had to dig and find documents ourselves on state and federal websites to put together a picture of the federal plan to nationalize education.

Mr. Rolly also says Carol Lear denies saying what I quote her saying below, but that came directly from communication she had in April 2012 acting in her capacity as the legal counsel for the USOE to Utah school teacher Christel Swasey. (link)

In April of this year the State School Board held a public forum to listen to public concerns on Common Core. After announcing how they wanted public input, they worked to stack the deck with UEA, PTA, and school teachers to come speak in favor of the Common Core and not actually let the public air their full concerns.

At this event, they passed out a flier with what they labeled fact and fiction, taking everything that parents such as myself have raised concerned over and calling them fiction, while listing their own explanations as fact. In their “fact” sections they didn’t reference a single document. Over the next couple days, Utah school teacher Christel Swasey wrote a rebuttal to their flier and listed numerous documents in support of the evidence as to why they were wrong. I then posted the rebuttal online and sent this first email below to the State School Board, Superintendent Shumway, and legislators. Here is the full exchange.


Dear State School Board and USOE,

Having seen your full color flier on Common Core this past week, a Utah teacher has prepared a full rebuttal based on documented facts, and challenges you to refute it.





It is so unfortunate that you feel the need to tear down policy, procedure and curriculum rather than build on what can work and move forward.  I want so to build on what is good and improve on that which is not working.  We need to prepare our students to be capable of working in a world economy and striking out against anything that may improve our curriculum because it comes outside Utah only undermines our chances to prepare our students for the world they are inheriting.

Regardless, I will take the credible concerns from teachers, parents and students and work to improve on our curriculum and support systems to the degree we can afford to do with the dollars and structure we have available.

Would love to have you work with us, instead of against us.



Hi Dixie,

So far our concerns have fallen on completely deaf ears. Nobody at the USOE or state board has given any validity to what we’ve brought up.  These concerns have been called lies and misrepresentations, or dismissed as “fiction” in official documents by the State Office and Board.  I wouldn’t exactly call that seeking to work with us, especially considering that our facts are backed up by actual documents while the board flier passed out last Thursday didn’t have a single reference to back up your “facts.” We would love to have our concerns receive serious and honest answers but, so far, that’s not been the case.




Maybe that is because we don’t have time to chase all your conspiracy issues down — we are too busy making sure we have our curriculum in place, assessment that correctly assesses the curriculum, quality instruction in every classroom, evaluations of teachers and principals to insure such quality instruction and support from our legislature to properly fund the system.  We do not have time to chase the conspiracy issues that you and others keep bringing to our table.  We are absolutely convinced that this adoption of core standards is a step in the right direction and regardless of your issues, we will be working hard to amend, improve, add to and assess these standards — rather than wasting time trying to answer all the questions that have no bearing on the quality of education we are providing.

That’s what I wish you were working for.




We know the board is busy and the state office as well, and yet we’re not even asking you to do a ton of research. We’ve done it for you and are just providing it to you. It’s quite stunning that you would call our concerns conspiracy theories when they come right out of documents the state office has filed or direct quotes from officials that are well aware of what’s going on.

For example, is it a conspiracy theory that Larry Shumway went on Rod Arquette’s radio show and announced that he’s concerned how President Obama and Secretary Duncan are taking credit for the Common Core standards and how the DoEd is already pressuring the state in some way associated with the standards?

Is it a conspiracy theory that Retired Appellate Judge Norman Jackson reviewed the documents we have concerns with and said:

“What is the role of the federal government in Common Core standards implementation? According to proponents of the standards, the federal government has had NO role in their implementation. Concerned citizens, including mothers and teachers, have done their homework and conclude the opposite. They asked me to examine the contracts. Based on my examination of three underlying contract documents—I concur with the citizens.”

“In 2010, the State of Utah (Executive Branch) joined the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium. In 2011, the Consortium signed a Cooperative Contract with the U. S. Department of Education. These contracts legally bind Utah to proceed with implementation of the Federal Common Core Standards.” ?

Is it a conspiracy theory when we say the standards are not great and Utah doesn’t currently have the right to modify them and then USOE legal counsel Carol Lear says, “The whole point is to get to a place where there is a ‘common core’ – that would mean the same standards for all the states that adopt it.  If the states had the freedom to ‘disagree’ and ‘change’ them, I guess they would no longer be ‘common’.”  ?

The problem we face is that everyone at the state who claims to value local control is so busy with so many things, they don’t want to hear from concerned citizens who have spent literally hundreds of hours researching what’s going on. It’s easy to dismiss someone else’s concerns when you label them liars and conspiracy theorists, but that doesn’t do anything to build the relationships of cooperation you claim to value.




I guess what I am saying is — We have heard your message and are working hard to be sure we are doing what is appropriate to move forward and support quality education for the students of the state.  You do not need to keep beating us over the head with the same message.



At this point one of the legislators who had been following along emailed this response.


Hello Dixie,

I have been following this ongoing conversation between you and Oak Norton. I am disappointed that a state employee would be as dis-respectful to a private citizen as you have been to Mr. Norton.  I appreciate citizens who contact the state regarding issues that could impact the education of our children.  Could you please help me understand your hostile attitude toward Mr. Norton? His emails present legitimate issues and concerns with common core.  Wouldn’t it be better to respond with rebuttals that qualify and support Utah State Office of Education positions on these issues rather than attacking people as conspiracy theorists.

Rep Mike Noel

P.S.  Retired Judge Norman Jackson is a solid citizen and a good friend


This email was followed by another representative making this comment and Rep. Noel’s final response.



I believe that Dixie should be able to express her opinion as a state employee or as a private citizen. We should be able to get input from anyone and everyone regardless of their employment.  If Dixie wants to share her opinion with us on any issue, I welcome it.

Representative Jim Bird


Hello Jim

I agree that Dixie can share her personal opinions as can any state employee or any member of the USOE or State School Board.  However, I strongly believe that state employees when dealing with their customers (the public) have an obligation to be professional and to answer inquiries from the public in a professional manner.  I am sure you agree that we don’t want state employees treating members of the public, and especially your constituents, in a rude condescending manner.    I think you are stretching it to say Mrs. Allen is responding to Mr. [Norton] from a personal point of view.   Read her statements, she is expressing the opinions of the USOE and from her position as the Vice Chairman of the State School Board.   When she assumes that role, she is no longer afforded the option of being disrespectful to those that may offer a different opinion on what I consider is an important issue.  FYI, I also don’t think Dixie was sharing her opinion with you or me or any of us, I think she was responding to a request for a policy review of the implementation of Common Core to Mr. [Norton].  I was actually interested in seeing what the official response was going to be from USOE and the Board, as opposed to … stop pestering us with your conspiracy theories.  Have a nice day.


[Rep Mike Noel]


That’s the “vicious” and “unhinged” attack in all its gore. Mr. Rolly sure weaves a fancy spin of events to marginalize people. Maybe the SL Tribune headline was properly titled after all. :)

Rolly: Rotten to the Core

Common Core Governing Documents

We recently received an email asking about the governing documents for Common Core and a couple of individuals sent me this list of links below. It is not intended to be a comprehensive list as that would be difficult to amass. Many of you have seen the illustration at the bottom of the previous article, The Common Core Lie, which shows the number of organizations established to fill in the network of entities and programs seeking to nationalize education. It’s a complex beast with tentacles into every aspect of education. It is apparent that this has been in the works for many years and many documents reference the common core documents or are referenced by them. A few of those are:

  • America Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education and Science Act (COMPETES Act)
  • American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA)
  • Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)


Cooperative Agreement between Dept of Ed and SBAC:

The copyrighted standards:

The Smarter Balanced Governance structure:

The RTTT application for Utah:

Challenging and in opposition to a federal takeover of education (which Common Core certainly is):

On FERPA regulations:  Here’s the federal regulatory changes that were made without Congressional knowledge/approval:

The executive branch is being sued by EPIC for adding those illegal regulations that hurt privacy but advance the cause of Common Core testing’s national data collection agenda:

A link to the Federal law’s which explicitly prohibit the Feds from being involved (GEPA law):

No provision of any applicable program shall be construed to authorize any department, agency, officer, or employee of the United States to exercise any direction, supervision, or control over the curriculum, program of instruction, administration, or personnel of any educational institution, school, or school system, or over the selection of library resources, textbooks, or other printed or published instructional materials by any educational institution or school system…

9th and 10th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution:

9: The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

10: The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.


Videos on Common Core

For those that want to listen in the background or watch presentations on Common Core, here’s a selection to choose from.

Oklahoma’s ROPE Restore Oklahoma Public Education – unamendability = liberty sold

Oklahoma’s ROPE – fuzzy math in Common Core

Parent reads Mathematician James Milgram’s review of Investigations (fuzzy) math in a school meeting

3 Utah Teachers & Mothers Against Common Core   (Christel Swasey, Alisa Ellis, and Renee Braddy)

Utah – Two Moms Against Common Core  (Alisa Ellis and Renee Braddy)

Heritage Foundation against Common Core

Rick Perry of Texas

Oklahoma’s ROPE – no public or legislative vetting of federalized education


Correcting the USOE’s “Facts” – Education without Representation

Addendum: If the USOE would care to respond to any of this information as a rebuttal, I would be happy to post it on this website. Consider this a challenge to debunk our information with documented facts.

The Utah State Office of Education has published a pamphlet to try and tell people that all the concerns being raised about Common Core are just dust in the wind. Here is a link to their flier and an excellent rebuttal by Utah school teacher Christel Swasey.

USOE Flier (PDF)

Education Without Representation

Response to claims of the Utah School Board’s flier

The Utah State Board of Education has a flier which is also posted on the official website.

None of the claims of the flier have been backed up with references. This response will be backed up with references to verifiable sources and legally binding documents.

  • The State Board flier states that this is a myth: “Utah adopted nationalized education standards that come with federal strings attached.”

FACT:   Utah’s Cooperative Agreement with the U.S. Department of Education (via the SBAC tests; link below) presents so many federal strings, it’s more like federal rope around Utah’s neck.

The Cooperative Agreement mandates synchronization of testing arms and testing, mandates giving status updates and written reports and phone conferences with the federal branch and it demands that “across consortia,” member states provide data “on an ongoing basis” for perusal by the federal government. This federal control is, according to G.E.P.A. laws and the U.S. Constitution, an illegal encroachment by the federal government on our state.

FACT:  The Federal government paid for the promotion of Common Core. It paid other groups to do what it is constitutionally forbidden to do. Each group that worked to develop the standards and/or the test were federally funded and each remains under compliance regulations of federal grants. For two examples, PARCC (a testing consortium) was funded through a four-year, $185 million dollar grant from the U.S. Department of Education to delivering a K-12 assessment system. WestED, the other consortium test writer for SBAC, is funded by the executive branch, including the U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Department of Education, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Justice. There are many more examples of federal funding and federal promotion of this supposedly state-led initative if you just do a little digging.

FACT: To exit the SBAC, a state must get federal approval and the permission of a majority of consortium states.  (page 297).

FACT: When South Carolina recently made moves to sever ties with the Common Core Initiative, Arne Duncan, the U.S. Secretary of Education, began to make angry, unsubstatiated attacks, insulting South Carolina.   Duncan had similarly insulted Texas educators on national television and had made incorrect statements about Texas education, when that state refused to join Common Core.,8599,2089503,00.html

  • The State Board flier states that this is a myth: “Utah taxpayers will have to pay more money to implement the new Utah Core Standards.” 

FACT: No cost analysis has been done by Utah. (Ask U.S.O.E. to see one.)

FACT: Other states cited high implementation costs as reasons they rejected the Common Core Initiative. The Texas Education Agency estimated implementing the Common Core standards in the state would result in professional development costs of $60 million for the state and approximately $500 million for local school districts, resulting in a total professional development cost of $560 million. (p. 15) Also, Virginia’s State School Board cited both educational and financial reasons for rejecting Common Core.

FACT: California is asking for tax hikes right now to pay for Common Core Implementation.

FACT:  South Carolina’s Governor Haley is right now trying to escape Common Core’s federal and financial entanglements.

  • The State Board flier says that Utah is “free to change the Utah Core Standards at any time,” and calls the following truth a myth: “Adoption of these new Core Standards threatens the ability of parents, teachers and local school districts to control curriculum.”   These half-truths are so misleading.

FACT: It is true that Utah can change the current Utah Core. But Utah is not free to change the common CCSS standards. And very soon, the CCSS standards will be all we’ll teach. The CCSS standards are the only standards the common test is being written to. The CCSS standards are the only standards that are truly common to all Common Core states.  Unique state standards are meaningless in the context of the tests.  This has been verified by WestEd, the test maker.

When teachers realize that merit pay and student performance depend on how well teachers teach the CCSS, and not on how well they teach the Utah Core, they will abandon the state core and focus on teaching to the CCSS-based test. Since there is no possibility for Utah to make changes to CCSS, we have given up our educational system if we take the common test. This is education without representation. Already there are significant differences between the Utah Core and the CCSS (such as, we allow lots of classic literature and CCSS does not; it favors slashing literature in favor of infotexts in English classes). When additional wrongheaded changes come to the CCSS standards, under Common Core, Utah will be unable to do anything about it. CCSS has no amendment process.

FACT:  The CCSS standards amount to education without representation.  They cannot be amended by us, yet they are sure to change over time.  A U.S.O.E. lawyer was asked, “Why is there no amendment process for the CCSS standards?” She did not claim that there was one.  Instead, she replied:  “Why would there need to be? The whole point is to be common.” (Email received April 2012 by C. Swasey from C. Lear)

  • The State Board flier states that “The Utah Core Standards were created, like those in 44 other states, to address the problem of low expectations.”

This is a half-truth. While some dedicated Utahns have been working to address the problem of low expectations for years, the Common Core Initiative was hastily adopted for financial reasons. Utah agreed to join the Common Core and the SBAC long before the common standards had even been written or released, or any cost analysis or legal analysis had taken place. Utah joined Common Core and the SBAC to get more eligibility points in the points-based “Race to the Top” grant application. While Utah didn’t win the grant money, it stayed tied to Common Core and the SBAC testing consortium afterwards.

  • The State Board flier states that this is a myth:  “Political leaders and education experts oppose the Common Core State Standards.”

FACT:  Stanford Professor Michael Kirst testified, among other things, that it is unrealistic to call four year, two year, and vocational school preparation equal college readiness preparation:

FACT:  Professor Sandra Stotsky who served on the CC Validation Committee refused to sign off on the standards as authentic English preparation for college:

FACT:  Mathematician Ze’ev Wurman has testified to the South Carolina Legislature that the math standards are insufficient college preparation: and

  • The State Board flier inaccurately states: “Most thoughtful people on this issue have lined up in favor of the Common Core State Standards.”

FACT:  Governor Herbert is in the middle of a legal, educational and financial review of the standards right now. He affirmed to Heber City teachers and citizens last month that he is willing to review the standards and the political complications of the Common Core Initiative and to meet again with the teachers and citizens together with his legal team.

FACT: The majority of gubernatorial candidates and candidates for senate and house representation at the Republican convention have stated that they are directly opposed to the Common Core Initiative.  This fact is verifiable via the document published for the 2012 Republican convention by Alisa Ellis, on which each candidate was asked to state whether he/she was for, against, or still learning, about the Common Core Initiative.

FACT:  In less than two weeks, more than 1,500 Utah teachers, parents, taxpayers and students have signed the petition on this website without any advertising or marketing efforts, just by word of mouth.

FACT:  There is a significant group of Utah educators who have not and will not speak out in this forum, although they do have serious concerns about the Common Core.  There is a perception that to speak against the Common Core Initiative is unacceptable or disloyal. This spiral of silence spins from the fear educators have of losing their jobs if they express what they really see. Some educators quietly and confidentially reveal this to others who boldly oppose to Common Core.

Utah educators might respond well to an anonymously administered survey, so that educators might feel safer in sharing multifaceted, or less rose-colored experiences in this first year of Common Core Implementation, without having to identify themselves.  Educators who have had a good experience with this first year of implementation of Common Core dare speak out.  But Utah educators who do speak out boldly against common core, if you pay close attention, are those who are on maternity leave or who have sources of income other than educating, for financial support, and are thus unafraid of losing jobs.

This final point is obviously difficult to substantiate, but ought to be studied and either verified or proven false, by the Utah State School Board.

A Recent History of Utah’s Math Standards

I keep hearing accusations that we are against higher standards and thought it would be appropriate to set the record straight since the facts show the USOE certainly isn’t concerned with higher standards.

As one individual who was very involved in the math standards issue the last several years I would like to give you a little background and then a few links you can read in depth on the subject if you’re really interested.

Utah’s math standards prior to 2007 were rated a D by the Fordham Foundation. These standards were quite poor by all accounts and gave Alpine School District (ASD) the leeway to cease teaching children the times tables and long division in schools. For several straight years the times tables were not taught to students causing massive problems as they moved through their K-12 schooling. These math programs were 100% constructivist based and the wise teachers that saw the major problem this would cause had to shut their doors in order to teach children the times tables. There is a long history here which is all found on my website if you’re really interested, but the short of it was this: ASD refused to listen to thousands of parents on two different petitions who requested they drop this program because, to loosely use their language, “we are the professional educators and know what’s best for your children.”

So we took the only action we could and went over their heads to our elected representatives since our elected school board was in the district pocket. We convinced legislators we had a problem. They held hearings and the state was adamantly opposed to raising its standards, especially since they’d just reviewed the standards about 5 years earlier (if I remember the time frame correctly) and weren’t going to do it for a few more years.

They fought back and brought in West Ed who compared our standards to 3-4 other states to show that we were comparable. It was pathetic. They were defending some of the worst standards in the country, tooth and nail by comparing us in a way that said, “see, they do addition, we do addition.” Our side that wanted stronger standards brought in Dr. Jim Milgram, a world renowned math professor at Stanford and someone who had actually written math standards for states and studied international math standards. He tore the Utah math standards apart showing how weak, flawed, and mathematically incorrect they were, and by the time he was done, West Ed had lost all credibility.

The state superintendent at the time was Patti Harrington and the legislature asked her to give Utah world class math standards on par with Singapore and Japan to which she agreed. The USOE had no desire to raise our standards and said ours were sufficient. They never did compare the standards to these other top performing countries, but we did wind up with new standards rated an “A-” by the Fordham Foundation. The USOE was adamantly opposed to just adopting another state’s standards. We wanted to just adopt California’s standards for 2 reasons. One, it meant we’d get some of the very best standards in the country (and Fordham has said CA’s standards and a few other states are better than the new Common Core math standards), and second, there were loads of textbooks written for the CA standards so we’d be ready to jump right into curricula material that was designed and tested.

The USOE wouldn’t have any part of this idea because they said Utah has different values from California so it wouldn’t be right for us to have the same standards. What total hypocrites. Along comes Common Core subjecting Utah to the same standards as a conglomeration of all other states, and subjugating us to be a minority vote to the decisions of other states, and without any debate or griping about changing the standards when we’d just done it a couple years prior, the state board adopted Common Core (also rated an A- by the Fordham Foundation after they received large money from the same special interest groups pushing Common Core nationally).

Our efforts with this website have never been about rigorous standards. We have already proven that we are the ones actively seeking stronger standards before anyone in the USOE ever thought about it. This has never been about standards that indoctrinate. Those are straw man arguments that the USOE has pushed to be able to tell people “here, read the standards and you’ll see there’s nothing indoctrinating in them” and then people believe them even though they’ve lied about our position. We have never said the standards indoctrinate anyone. This has been about the total loss of local control of education and subjecting ourselves to the federal government’s control of all aspects of the education system. There are serious concerns about the assessments and how the feds have funded them, but that’s information you can find elsewhere on this site.

If you are interested in reading some of the actual account from when it happened, you can do so on these pages of my website:

Discussion with state board members on what world-class standards meant.

How the USOE didn’t take their charge seriously and even appear to have intentionally torpedoed the effort to give Utah strong standards.

Testimony that even the 2007 math standards still didn’t even reach the level and clarity of California’s math standards.

Here are a few examples in a table on this page concerning how Common Core is inferior and much less clear than California’s standards and even the Fordham Foundation admits that. (see table 1)

So again I ask, why doesn’t Utah just adopt the California standards without any federal strings attached (or other highly rated states that have better standards than Common Core). CA has textbooks readily available and since they are now plunging down the Common Core path, we could probably buy used textbooks for the price of shipping.

Based on these experiences, it is hard to take the USOE serious when they say they want to raise Utah’s standards. Common Core was never about raising standards, it was pulling a Race to the Top lottery handle in the hopes of hitting a federal jackpot. Too bad we came up losers on the money and are now contractually obligated to have Utah taxpayers expend millions of dollars changing our standards and paying all the expenses associated with that.