Category Archives: News

Governor Herbert calls on State Board to End CC and SAGE

Jonathan Johnson This morning Jonathan Johnson called on Utah to end SAGE testing. Tonight Governor Herbert called on the state board to get Utah out of Common Core standards and SAGE testing. Dang I love election years!Governor Herbert

With Jonathan Johnson defeating Governor Herbert at the GOP convention 55%-45%, largely influenced by Common Core issues, the Governor no doubt had an awakening. I have never doubted the Governor’s intentions to provide a quality education to Utah children, but I still find this move politically opportunistic to try and salvage his chances of being re-elected. Of course, the Governor can make this call knowing he has no authority to actually carry it out. That belongs to the state board…

Having had several discussions with Jonathan Johnson, I know he is fully committed to principles of local control that I’m not sure the governor is committed to at the same level based on his letter. His letter brings out some positives for sure, but I believe it’s time LEA’s (Local Education Agency) had much greater control over their financing, standards, assessments, data collection and privacy, and the state shrunk back in it’s role interfering with local education (and of course the feds are cut out of the picture completely).

In essence, here is what the Governor said:

-Common Core had a poor implementation (Oak: this is the go-to excuse for all failure programs like Investigations math)

-Naturally, he said there is misinformation on the subject, but added for what I think is the first time, that there are legitimate concerns.

-He asks the state board to change out the standards and keep these three principles in mind:
–Maintain high standards in all subject areas
–Keep the feds out of education decisions
–Preserve local control of curriculum, testing, data collection, and instructional practices.

-Make the process public (not something that happened the first time)

-There are shortcomings to the one-size-fits-all approach. We need standards that are flexible to allow a wide variety of curricular decisions by individual school districts.

-Eliminate the SAGE mandate for high school (and evaluate the effectiveness of it in other grade levels)

-“I have eleven grandchildren in Utah public schools. I have seen firsthand the frustration they and their parents have had over an assignment they did not understand and that teachers struggled to teach.”

End of summary.

No doubt this will be nationwide news that Utah’s Governor who has been one of the biggest proponents of Common Core, now wants out. That’s helpful for the entire movement across the country and for that, I’m grateful.

To download a copy of Governor Herbert’s letter, click here.

To see the near immediate response of the state board (ie. at least some of the knew this was happening and prepared this response), click here.

Dr. Duke Pesta: From Farce to Fiction

Dr. Duke Pesta has given hundreds of presentations around the country on Common Core. Below is a link to one of his very best. It shows the origin of Common Core and those involved with it talking about exactly how it came about and how we won’t know for a decade if it works. To the contrary, we are already seeing evidence that it does not work as math and reading scores are declining nationwide.

Dr. Pesta’s video will not allow for embedding so you will have to click this link to watch it.

Michigan just took the best action possible. It dumped Common Core and has adopted the pre-Common Core Massachusetts standards which Fordham said are superior to Common Core.

Time to Admit the Obvious: Common Core Has Failed Spectacularly

The lie that Phil Daro (one of the original drafters of the math standards) declared the creation of Common Core was for social justice to level the playing field, but in reality it is only being played out in that our best and brightest are being held back.  Unfortunately the learning gap between the rich and poor has actually widened under Common Core (as predicted). Here’s a report from Stanford on 200 million student’s scores and what they show. Make no mistake, this is 100% on Common Core even though this article doesn’t mention it. Common Core has been around for six years now with full implementation for at least four.

Local education inequities across U.S. revealed in new Stanford data set

It is unfortunate that when I tried to introduce the elementary math parent review committee to the incredible success California was having with low-socioeconomic students and minorities, increasing their proficiency in algebra one by a 6x factor over 10 years, I was shut down by Diana Suddreth at the USOE. They had no intention of letting Utah switch off Common Core. California’s success didn’t meet the agenda of doing this nationwide experiment on our children.

Governor Herbert’s Outrageous Claim

Governor Herbert's Outrageous ClaimIt’s an election year and I think that’s about all the explanation we need to understand a recent political flier from Governor Herbert. The Governor has to be a little worried about his political race this year. His challenger strongly opposes Common Core and its associated agenda, and Governor Herbert has been one of the strongest advocates for Common Core in the country. It therefore takes special nerve to put out a large color mailer where the very first claim on it is:

Gov Herbert common core

Lets look at some of Governor Herbert’s past love affair with Common Core.

1) In November 2010, Governor Herbert published an article entitled “Governor’s Education Excellence Commission to Consider Action Items for Strategic Plan.” In this document he stated “Our next step is to put the meat on the bones of our plan and outline the clear steps that will allow us to reach our goal.”  Items three and four of his eight point plan was:

“3) Implementing the Common Core Standards.

4. Expanding computer-adaptive, formative assessments based on the Common Core and implementing college- and career- ready assessments such as the ACT cadre of tests.”

2) In February 2014, Governor Herbert was asked by The Blaze about Common Core and stated:

“Common Core was designed initially by the states,” Herbert told TheBlaze. “It’s really just a common goal. It predates my time. Governors were upset about the progress of education. We’re falling behind. So states simply said, ‘Why don’t we have a common goal on language arts and math, and whoever you are in this country, when it comes to getting a high school diploma, you have some kind of minimal proficiency?’ That aspect of it was good.”

“We certainly don’t want to have the government overreaching and dictating to the states, certainly not to Utah, about our methodology, how we’re going to do it, what our textbooks are, what our testing is going to be,” Herbert said.

“In fact in Utah, we’ve passed a law to say that can’t happen. We have a law that says if any of this federal overreach somehow gets into our system, we are mandated to get out of it. I think our education, our state school board, our education leaders, we’ve always controlled our own curriculum, we’ve always controlled our own textbooks and testing. We’ll continue to do that in Utah.”

Once you became governor, it was YOUR pen that sealed the deal by signing us onto the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium which agreed to fully implement Common Core and other federal education agenda items. YOUR signature Governor that “[certified] that as a Governing State [we are] fully committed to the application and will support its implementation.”


Then in 2011, YOU signed the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund Application which obligated Utah’s support for four major federal reforms. This is the heart of Common Core. It’s never been just about standards although you and the state office of education have tried to make it that. It’s a much wider net.

State Fiscal Stabilization Fund Application

The four reforms you signed us onto in this document include redistribution of teachers, setting up massive database tracking on students, adopting Common Core standards and assessments, and putting “turnaround” experts in schools so in time, every school will be reshaped by “experts” instead of teachers and parents.

Governor Herbert also signed the Race to the Top Application Assurances for both phase 1 and 2, promising to implement the four federal reforms listed above. Phase 2 was just to tweak our application and increase our chances at getting money from this federal lottery. RTTT phase 1 RTTT phase 2

Frankly, I’m surprised anyone believes Common Core was state led anymore. Except for the constant parroting of that lie by the education establishment and those who fail to actually do their homework, Common Core would have died already.

Here’s just a couple of pieces of the pie.  David Coleman was one of the chief architects of Common Core itself. In 2008, he helped convince Bill Gates to bankroll this effort, and then began the major effort to convince the governors that they should sign on. Listen to David say it himself, and how Common Core was created by a few people in a room on a napkin.

Our own Utah State Office of Education didn’t even know who was on the drafting committee of the original standards when they were being drafted back in 2009-10!

The standards weren’t state-led, they were Gates-led. Bill Gates’ Foundation gave tens of millions of dollars to the NGA and CCSSO to get them to come together on common standards and then a secretive committee wrote the standards. Why was Bill interested in this? He’s openly stated it. Big business opportunities exist when you standardize. It was never about standards. It always included assessments, and yes, curriculum would be forthcoming as Bill Gates stated in 2009, otherwise we would never know if the standards would work.

Then this would unleash huge market forces (translation: big players like Pearson, McGraw-Hill, Houghton Mifflin, would demolish and put the small players out of business leaving them to rake in billions of dollars as those with monopoly power always do). Watch Bill state it himself back in 2009. Local control of curriculum? Not so much when the now small group of publishers align their texts to the standards and assessments (and now the college entrance exams, CLEP, AP, and GED).

Finally, even the feds have now admitted they coerced the states into adoption.

3) On April 6, 2014, Governor Herbert appeared on Red Meat Radio and made this statement:

“Now I recognize that there’s a lot of misunderstanding out there, and some of that’s in part because people think we’re involved in the Common Core, and the difference between that and the Utah core, and we think there’s some kind of a federal overreach here, and that’s an exaggeration.”

So in a classic move under pressure, the Governor sought to play a name game. Lets not call it Common Core anymore because that’s a hot potato that the state superintendent already admitted included federal pressure… Lets call it Utah Core and pretend they’re different.

Just a few months earlier in February 2014, I had an email exchange with State Superintendent Martell Menlove. This was his response to this name game. (underlining 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

Utah adopted the national Common Core standards two days after they were made public, exactly as written.

4) Now to the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) which Governor Herbert crows about how wonderful it is for releasing us from the restrictive No Child Left Behind. This is the bill that Obama’s Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said:

“I’m stunned. at how much better it ended up than either [House or Senate] bill going into conference. I had a Democratic congressman say to me that it’s a miracle — he’s literally never seen anything like it…

…if you look at the substance of what is there . . . embedded in the law are the values that we’ve promoted and proposed forever. The core of our agenda from Day One, that’s all in there – early childhood, high standards [i.e.,Common Core], not turning a blind eye when things are bad. For the first time in our nation’s history, that’s the letter of the law.”

He also said:

“We were intentionally quiet on the bill — they asked us specifically not to praise it — and to let it get through,” he explained. “And so we went into radio silence and then talked about it after the fact…. Our goal was to get this bill passed — intentionally silent on the many, many good aspects of the bill…. We were very strategically quiet on good stuff.”…

So Arne Duncan and the Obama administration got everything they ever wanted, by staying quiet as Republicans played themselves into their hands. Deft Arne. This should actually be of great concern to people since Arne also wants to “phase out the authority of the states,” in dealing with the disadvantaged, and is a big fan of increasing the length of the school day and week.

In fact, after ESSA passed, the Whitehouse released a document stating: “Not only does ESSA cement progress already made, it embraces much of the vision the Administration has outlined for education policy since 2009.”

ESSA’s text was released just a couple days before the vote, naturally. You wouldn’t want people reading something that size before voting on it. After a massive effort by Alyson Williams and a few dozen parents to dissect it in a day, they got that information to our congressional delegation and all four House members and Senator Mike Lee voted against this bill. Yet Governor Herbert said this about ESSA:

“This is a significant step in the right direction in our work to ensure state control of education policy. This bill reinforces that accountability and responsibility for K-12 education rests with the states. It is a clear example of cooperative federalism, which is a core tenant of this association. It emphasizes that states and localities have the freedom to provide students the world-class education they deserve.”

So what is this significant step in the right direction the governor sees?

Click on this link to go to a text comparison of some federal requirements under NCLB and ESSA. They are essentially the same.

We got rid of Annual Yearly Progress under NCLB, but what else happened? The federal secretary of education now has the ability to VETO our state education plans (The [federal] secretary shall ‘‘(vi) have the authority to disapprove a State plan”). Testing actually increases under ESSA.

We also got these very troubling additions in ESSA.

Private Schools

(B) OMBUDSMAN.—To help ensure such equity for such private school children, teachers, and other educational personnel, the State educational agency involved shall designate an ombudsman to monitor and enforce the requirements of this part.’’ (pg. 71)

What? Private schools now get government monitors?!?! Yes.

Family plans

ESSA allows states to use funds to “support programs that reach parents and family members at home [and] in the community.”(pg. 69) The Federal Department of HHS and Education have put together a draft implementation document to show how they recommend this be implemented. Here’s one blogger’s analysis of this plan and below are quotes.

“Implement[s] a vision for family engagement that begins prenatally and continues across settings and throughout a child’s developmental and educational experiences” (Page 5)
See “parenting interventions” (pg. 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 13, 14, 16)
ESSA allows states to use funds to “support programs that reach parents and family members at home [and] in the community.” (, Pg. 69)
States shall “become active participants in the development, implementation, and review of school-parent compacts, family engagement in education policies, and school planning and improvement;” (IBID, pg. 218)
Provides grants to turn elementary and secondary schools into “Full-Service Community Schools”  with “Pipeline Services” that provide “a continuum of coordinated supports, services, and opportunities for children from birth through… career attainment”, including family health services. (IBID pg. 222, 223, 229)”

What? Family engagement plans with parenting interventions?!?! Yes!
The state is an active participant in a new school-parent compact?!?! Yes!
PRENATAL development tracking through career attainment?!?!?! Yes!
Reducing parents from primarily responsible for their children’s education to a stakeholder in partnership with the state and educators?!?!?!?! Yes!

Governor, which part of this is that “significant step in the right direction” you mentioned above?

Oh thank you, thank you, thank you, Governor Herbert, Senator Hatch, and the other politicians asleep at the wheel who don’t read bills before you pass or evangelize them. Wait… or DID you actually read it??? Maybe you have so fully embraced federal education policies that you value these new interventions???

5) I can’t leave this article without correcting something else. As I’ve been at some of the meet the candidate events, the Governor and his crew are still touting how the state attorney general issued a report on Common Core that says implementation didn’t cede state authority. For a more complete analysis of that report, read Christel Swasey’s write up here.

Three things came out of this report which the Governor and staff fail to ever bring up. The report states that:

  1. Utah’s math and ELA core, were in fact Common Core, something the Governor kept denying. (see point 3 above)
  2. The US Dept. of Education (by imposing waiver conditions and pushing states to adopt federally approved standards) “has infringed upon local and state authority over public education” and that Utah and other states “consented to this infringement through federal coercion.” (emphasis mine)
  3. The report correctly said that “Utah has the legal ability to repeal” Common Core.

Mr. Governor, may I bring your attention to point 2 again?

As for point 3, the governor is exactly right that we didn’t cede state authority. We just don’t exercise the necessary leadership to get us out of this mess because Governor Herbert is the current president of the National Governor’s Association (NGA) which created Common Core with Bill Gate’s money and withdrawing could prove embarrassing and start a bigger chain reaction among states. Governor, you also promised that math and ELA would be the only Common Core subjects Utah would adopt, but now we’ve adopted the Common Core science standards as well.

I encourage you all to read Christel’s full write-up because there are several things the report got wrong. Also realize that it was the Governor’s office that chose the questions the Attorney General was to answer. There are a host of other questions we wanted to have addressed that weren’t.

6) I just received Governor Herbert’s “Open Letter” on Common Core so I have to add a comment about one of the Governor’s claims here. He says:

“I signed into law SB 287 – a bill that makes it illegal for the federal government to have any control.”

No it doesn’t. No law in our state makes it “illegal” for the federal government to have “any control.” They get all the control we cede to them, and we most certainly have. They dictate flexibility requirements, and as noted above there are numerous controls they possess including veto power over our education plans.

Governor Herbert, at Senator Dayton’s request, I drafted that bill (2012 SB 287) you’re referring to. It was to be our *get out of jail free card,* and it’s largely worthless as you signed it. It doesn’t do what you’re suggesting. Oh it sort of did when I drafted it, where I listed off a bunch of triggers that said if any of these things happen, Utah “shall exit” that federal agreement. Unfortunately by the time it reached your pen, it said, “may exit.” Toothless and spineless thanks to interference from some who were nervous we might actually stand up to the federal government. If it did what you actually suggest, why haven’t you utilized it and showed the feds you mean business since some of those triggers have been pulled?

7) Someone just reminded me about this one. In 2013, 65.5% of state delegates voted for a resolution calling on the Governor, legislature, and state board to get us out of the Common Core agenda. The Governor has just ignored this completely.

In conclusion, any talk of the Common Core standards being “just standards” or “state-led” is an abominable lie. These standards were masterminded by a small secretive group with an agenda. For more information on that agenda, Please read the following articles.

This article constitutes an attempt to set the record straight. I agree with many of the things the Governor has done the past several years and applaud his efforts in blocking funding to Planned Parenthood, signing the parental rights and opt-out bill that Senator Osmond ran, and many other things. This is not meant to be a personal attack on the Governor himself, but he invites a rebuttal when he infers certain things in his advertising and openly states partial facts. His campaign statements do not reflect a reality of events that are well known nationwide, and even in his own Common Core history.

For what it’s worth I have had a number of conversations with Jonathan Johnson, currently running for Governor against Gary Herbert. I can’t tell you how refreshing it is to have a real conversation about education issues with Jonathan, send him further information, and have him actually read it and get back to me and others with specific thoughts on what we sent him. We might not always agree 100% of the time, but he’s actually put in the time and effort to understand a different point of view. In the past we have tried to discuss issues with Governor Herbert but his reply was always, “talk to my education advisor,” (who also happens to support Common Core in a huge way).  As a result of my experience and communications with Jonathan Johnson, I personally endorse him in his bid to become governor. Here are some other important reasons why I support hiring JJ.


The Dinner Hour has become the National Deprogramming Hour

Denis Ian, a 30+ year veteran public school teacher in New York, published this on Facebook. With his permission I am posting his writeup here. Denis taught Global History and economics, and was also involved with all sorts of district reforms and innovations. He has a BA and a MS in Education from Iona College in New Rochelle, NY.

The dinner hour has become the national deprogramming hour.

All across America, more and more, parents are discovering that their children are actually attending indoctrinating centers rather than schools … and hauling home the outrageous and almost always wrong, politically-infected version of all things. Perhaps Common Core’s lone, positive fallout is that it has revived the family supper.

Common Core, at the moment, is bad stuff. But it has the potential to become extremely bad stuff. For months, in post after post and article after article, the great debate has been about various lessons and approaches that have emerged. Are they or are they not Common Core sanctioned? I used to think that was a valid question. Not any more.

The very sponsors of Common Core hardly seem to mind these curriculum excursions into their absurdity … such as rewriting American history to coalesce with the current pc mindset. They seem barely shivered by eye-popping, stomach-churning developments in sex education … for the littlest of students … who are now exposed to startling information and vividly detailed sexual escapades … all under the guise of healthy living. The Common Core oligarchs seems somewhat soothed by the politically charged alterations to historical documents and events … provided they tumble to the left of center. In short, Common Core’s whoop seems to be … “Open sesame” … everything and anything is up for “reform”.

Anyone and everyone seems welcomed in the Common Core tent of the macabre. If you’re up for skewering America and its history, hop on board. If you’re inclined toward seedy sexual stuff … welcome home! If you’re in favor of disrupting and disturbing a particular activity like coal or petroleum production … or sanctifying every tree and bog and swamp … then there’s a slot for you in the Common Core mayhem. Itching for a fight about who should control nutrition for kids? You’re welcomed aboard. Cranky about about tenure or teacher sovereignty in the classroom? All aboard. It seems anyone with a beef gets a plate at the Common Core buffet of all-you-can-eat nonsense.

Got beefs? Maybe against the military or the Tea Party? Scribble out a unit or a lesson package. You’re in. Got hang-up about climate change or homosexual marriages? Fire away. Got a bug up your nose about Christianity or religion in general,? Just punch out a screed about fanatics and zealots and it’ll find it’s way into Common Core.

The point? Common Core has given educational cover for a slender minority to pollute the actual education environment with any issue whatsoever … and it seems to give those issues … no matter how hair-brained or offensive … a certain legitimacy. Common Core has become the new “open sesame” because, by its very nature, it suggests that what is, is not acceptable. America must be altered, changed, renovated, rejuvenated, redirected … and most especially … cured. But only if those cure pass a certain muster.

Esteemed historical figures are pilloried at the politically-correct whipping post. Historical documents … which foundationed this nation for centuries … are now seen as attic junk … to be recycled according to the “New Nonsense” of the day.

This is no time to hail this nation. Nope. It needs to be SHAMED. Made to appear as sinful as any other on the planet. It’s time to excoriate those blasphemers who think this is an exceptional nation based on a unique set of principles because, well, it makes us standout a bit too much from the rest of the miserable world. And we can’t have that. No, siree. We’re even cajoled to empathize with the new medievalists … currently on a head-collecting mission in the sands of the Middle East … who will one day rocket us into a modern armageddon of real life-or-death preservation. It now seems wiser to “understand” our enemies than to even question them … to search for the vomit-inducing “root cause” of their bloody neo-medievalism. Ever think we might be playing with a modern Ali Babba who isn’t so randy and dandy as the fictional one of yesteryear? I think not.

In schools today, Christianity is viewed as a dangerous cult, personal responsibility has been replaced by an all-knowing, all-soothing government, and espousing contrarian points of view will get you tattooed as a racist, a xenophile, a homophobe, a sexist, a capitalist-pig, a neanderthal … or a dastardly conservative. Common Core has opened the flood-gates for every miscreant with a special beef to step forward and set the record unstraight … because that is part and parcel of the New Nonsense.

And beware what college claims both your child and your family fortune … because almost all of them are indoctrinating, finishing schools of the very worst sort. You might not recognize the kid who returns home.

Make time for dinner … and save your child. Often. View each bread-breaking opportunity as if it was the last supper.

Denis Ian

Thank you for speaking out Denis. If you wonder what to talk about with your children, the answer is anything. Teach them economic principles, stories of perseverance, tidbits from history, and so on. A while back I created a website for topics for dinner discussion and you can find some good ones there. I’m going to be growing it again because I need it as much as anyone else.

Personalized Learning or Psychological Profiling?

These headlines about personalized learning in Education Week (see their newsletter below) give a very good snapshot of how psycho-social research and big brother-style data are converging BECAUSE of federal funding.

The goal for states should be to slow down the personalized learning train and give parents the chance to choose, as Dr. Gary Thompson says, “by informed consent,” whether or not they want their child’s academic and behavioral data tracked in order to control what they learn, and how they are disciplined in schools.

As the Fed’s big-data partner, Knewton’s President Jose Ferreira said, “We have five orders of magnitude more data about you than Google has. We literally have more data about our students than any company has about anybody else about anything, and it’s not even close.”

MarketPlace details, “Jose Ferreira imagines a day when “you tell us what you had for breakfast every morning at the beginning of the semester, by the end of the semester, we should be able to tell you what you had for breakfast. Because you always did better on the days you had scrambled eggs.”

MarketPlace continues, “If the right breakfast makes for a better behaved child, that will be measured, too. Teachers are increasingly relying on behavior monitoring software not only to keep kids on track, but to track them, too. With the help of an iPad, the teacher record’s whether or not your child is being helpful and attentive or talking out of turn. The child is rewarded, often with points, for good behavior. Points are taken away when behavior is not so good.”

This explains why the Fed’s gutted FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) regulations so that healthcare and counseling could be provided in schools without parental consent to “improve student outcomes” on test scores. (We’re from the government, and we’re here to help.)

The ironic thing about the MarketPlace article is that James Steyer from Common Sense Media talks about why it’s important that we get a handle on this data surge. Yet, it is HIS company that met with the White House and is helping them get federalized curriculum to teachers through the White House Learning Registry’s data brokerage system.

So many people are out there trying to “do good” in education. But, they are operating off of the wrong principles. If education is about outcomes, than all this data is necessary and desirable to control everyone. If education is about learning and growing, then agency would be inherent and real “choice” in education would automatically exist.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Here’s the Education Week newsletter and link. Notice that the headline makes it sound as if schools are pushing for Personalized Learning, but the truth exists beneath the headline: “Produced with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.” For those who still don’t know, Bill Gates partnered with the Obama administration on Race To The Top and the end-goal was to standardize and digitize learning around Common Core and its associated data standards (see here and here).

Screen shot 2016-01-20 at 2.04.16 PM Screen shot 2016-01-20 at 2.04.45 PM Screen shot 2016-01-20 at 2.05.31 PM

Link to Education Week blog.

NCLB 2002 vs. ESSA 2015

No Child Left Behind (NCLB):2002 vs Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA):2015

(Thank you Wendy Hart for preparing this and Alyson Williams and Jane Robbins for your assistance)

The ESSA has been explained as a significant improvement over NCLB in the areas of federal overreach into education, specifically regarding standards, testing, and accountability measures. In comparing the language between the two bills, this assertion is incorrect. It is true that ESSA gets rid of AYP, but the Secretary of Education and a Peer-Reviewed Committee must approve state plans that may include non-academic and subjective factors that measure ‘student engagement’ or school climate/safety. This summary does not treat the preschool and community learning centers that are also concerns for limited-government conservatives.

In short, this bill purports to fix the problems created under NCLB (some of which were, in fact, created outside of NCLB but incorrectly attributed to it, e.g. Common Core), but there is evidence that it doesn’t, in fact, fix federal overreach, and, in many instances, like in standards and mandated testing, it increases it.

Statement of Purpose“fair, equal, high-quality education, reach minimum proficiency on challenging academic standards”“fair, equitable, high-quality education, close achievement gaps”Focus changed from equal to equitable and from minimum proficiency in academics to closing achievement gaps
Standards“…State shall not be required to submit such standards to the Secretary [of Education].” p. 1445

Challenging standards same for all schools in the state that 1) specify knowledge and skills for students 2) coherent and rigorous content 3) encourage teaching advanced skills 4) coordinate with 6 federal statutes, 5) English, math, science.

Aligned to State standards. Describe 2 levels of high achievement (proficient and advanced). Describe a 3rd level (basic)

Secretary approves plans unless requirements not met. p. 1456

“State shall not be required to submit any standards… to the Secretary [of Education] for review or approval… Secretary shall not…mandate, direct, control, coerce or exercise any direction or supervision over State…standards.” p. 51

Challenging academic content standards: includes requirement for: 1) consultation with Governor, legislature, teachers, etc. 2) coordination with 11 different Federal programs including IDEA, Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOWA) 3) same for all schools in the state with exceptions, 4) English, math, science or others 5) “aligned with entrance requirements for credit-bearing coursework in…higher education…and…career and technical education standards.” p. 48

Specification on US Dept of Ed Review Committee for approving state plans.

Details on when the Secretary can disapprove plans. p. 42-3

Much of the language is similar. . Standards not required to be submitted for approval. Secretary still has discretion to approve or disapprove plans.

Standard specifications much more detailed under ESSA.
ESSA requires coordination with 11 federal statutes instead of 6.
ESSA requires standards to align with post-secondary coursework. The only current widely-adopted set of standards that are aligned is Common Core and Next Generation Science Standards. This alignment continues to set the stage for national standards (Common Core or similar) that will meet this expectation.

Testing ScheduleRequires testing as follows:
In English math, and science at least once:
1) grades 3- 5, 2) grades 6-9, and 3) grades 10 -12.
Involves multiple academic measures including “higher-order thinking skills and understanding;” p. 145095% participation rate required of all students and all subgroups.
Requires testing as follows:
In English and math: 1) in each grade 3 – 8 2) at least once in grades 9-12
In science at least once in 1) grades 3-5, 2) grades 6-9, 3) grades 10 -12.
Any other subject the state deems to requires, on a schedule set by the state.
Involves multiple up-to-date measures, including higher-order thinking skills, may include measures of student growth, partially determined in the form of portfolios, projects. p. 5495% participation rate required of all students and all subgroups.No parental opt-out of testing is allowed that would hold harmless schools or districts with a lower participation rate on required testing. (p.76)Assessment time is limited (p.76)
Testing has actually increased under ESSA. However, most state plans already include testing of every grade level, starting in 3rd grade at a minimum. But NCLB only requires 3 tests in the 3 different subjects throughout a child’s K-12 experience. ESSA requires 2 tests over 7 years and 1 test over 3 years minimum.

ESSA has greater detail given to other measures that ‘may’ be included on assessments.

95% participation rate maintained. Penalties follow for lower participation, effectively nullifying parental opt outs of testing for federal purposes. State laws allowing parental opt out are allowed, but meaningless for district and school accountability.

The limitation on assessment language has the effect of increasing federally-incentivized testing (under this Act) and reducing local or state testing. Since this is federal law, the federally-required tests will be given. Should additional testing exceed the limit under this part, the state and local assessments will be dropped. It is an increase in federal testing, in practice.

WaiversThe term ‘waiver’ applies to the section it is in. It is to be initiated by the LEA or State Education Agency and could be granted for things such as financial hardship, natural disaster, or if the state could find a better way to meet a given objective.

The Secretary has no power to establish new terms. p. 1972

Illegal NCLB Waivers from letter dated Sep. 23, 2011 terminated after Aug. 1, 2016. p. 7-8
The term ‘waiver’ applies to the section it is in. It is to be initiated by the LEA or State Education Agency and could be granted for things such as financial hardship, natural disaster, or if the state could find a better way to meet a given objective.The Secretary has no power to establish new terms. p. 819 – 822
ESSA modifications of language are more administrative than substantive.

In 2011, the Secretary of Education granted waivers from penalties under NCLB in exchange for new terms, including, for all practical purposes, using the Common Core standards. NCLB contains no provision for this, and scholarly articles, such as Vanderbilt Law Review, April 2015 ( call the use of this power unconstitutional. “This Article demonstrates that this exercise of power was beyond the scope of the Secretary’s statutory or constitutional authority. “ In short, the Secretary violated NCLB. There is no recourse for the states under either NCLB or ESSA to prohibit similar action from occurring.

Common CoreNothingState retains the right to enter in to voluntary partnerships with other states. Zeldin amendment added in the House. Prohibits penalties should states choose to exit Common Core.Since NCLB didn’t require Common Core, only the unconstitutional waiver process, there is no practical effect to this legislation. It’s a nice ‘Sense of Congress’, but the required alignment of standards to credit-bearing coursework and career (see above) will enshrine Common Core and nationally ‘certified’ programs and processes to meet this requirement.
AccountabilityAdequate Yearly Progress (AYP):
State establishes a measure of proficiency and standards for that proficiency, as well as a
timeline for AYP that leads to 100% proficiency in 12 years (2014) . Measures of different subgroups defined. Interim goals that require minimum proficiency requirements toward the 100% proficiency by 2014. Indicators of proficiency must be valid and reliable. pp. 1446-8
AYP is replaced with Long-term goals:
1) improved academic proficiency on annual assessments (see above)
2) high-school graduation rates
3) terms of goals are the same for all students and subgroups
4) may include student growth measures
5) another statewide valid and reliable indicator
6) indicator(s) of school quality, may include: student engagement, educator engagement, access and completion of advanced coursework, postsecondary readiness, school climate and safety, any other measure chosen by the state. pp. 80-85
AYP proficiency requirements on state-determined tests and standards are now removed. They are replaced with state-determined measures of improvement on state-determined standards and tests. As noted above, the state-determined standards and tests have greater requirements in federal legislation under ESSA than under NCLB.

Additionally, the measures of improvement include much more than academic achievement, and cause concern for parents that the state will requirement assessment of things outside their purview. What does the state’s assessment of student engagement or school safety look like? How is this to be objectively measured?

Prohibitions on Federal GovernmentSec. 9527 “Notwithstanding any other provision of Federal law, no State shall be required to have academic content or student academic achievement standards approved or certified by the Federal Government, in order to receive assistance under this Act.” p.1983Sec. 8527 “Notwithstanding any other provision of Federal law, no State shall be required to have academic content or student academic achievement standards approved or certified by the Federal Government, in order to receive assistance under this Act.” p. 844Identical or similar language in both prohibitions sections. ESSA includes more detail “including via grant, cooperative agreement, …” But legally, they cover the same ground.

The Federal Strings We’ve Signed Onto

Wendy HartThis timeline of events was prepared by Alpine school district board member Wendy Hart. Thank you Wendy for your above-and-beyond the call of duty efforts.


On May 1, 2009, the SBOE was told about the Common Core standards development. The group, headed by Achieve, Inc, the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), wanted the State Board to sign an MOU by the following Monday (May 4, 2009) to participate in the development of the standards. Originally, the Board was asked to vote to approve the MOU, but, upon finding that there was no action item on the agenda for this topic, they were asked to give ‘general direction’. So, the CCSS MOU between Utah, NGA, and CCSSO was agreed to without any formal action by the SBOE. It was signed by Governor Huntsman and State Superintendent Patti Harrington.

The CCSS MOU [, p.88] was important for several reasons. Utah agreed to the following:

  1. Common Standards development, and then adoptions: ‘…a process that will…lead to the development and adoption of a common core of state standards.’
  2. Assessments (tests) that are aligned across the states, ie. Common state tests. ‘The second phase…will be the development of common assessments aligned to the core standards developed through this process….assessments that are aligned to the common core across the states.’
  3. Textbooks and curricula alignment. ‘Align textbooks, digital media, and curricula to the…standards.’
  4. Adoption of the standards within three years. ‘Adoption…Each state adopting the common core…may do so in accordance with current state timelines…not to exceed three (3) years.’
  5. Eighty-five (85) percent of the English and Math standards MUST be the CC standards. States ‘may choose to include additional state standards beyond the common core. States…agree to ensure that the common core represents at least 85 percent of the state’s standards in English language arts and mathematics.’
  6. Increased federal role in education. ‘the federal government can provide key financial support…in developing a common core of state standards and …common assessments, such as through the Race to the Top Fund,….teacher and principal professional development…and a research agenda.’

The MOU also gave states a greater chance at qualifying for the Race to the Top program, funded by the 2009 stimulus, that would allow states to compete for $4.35 Billion. In order to compete, a state got more points if it had common standards (Common to a significant number of states), and the only thing that met that criteria was this Common Core project.

Race to the Top (RTTT) [] ties everything together with its 4 assurances:

  1. Common Standards and Assessments, aka Common Core and either the SBAC or PARCC testing consortia (the only 2 available at the time)
  2. Statewide Longitudinal Database System
  3. Improving teacher effectiveness: creating a statewide teacher evaluation system that ties student scores to teacher evaluations
  4. Identifying and Improving Low-performing schools, possibly removing them from locally-elected school boards

Utah applied for RTTT Phase 1 funds and was rejected. The SBOE decided to apply again for Phase 2 RTTT funds. In May, 2010, the State Board Chair, Debra Roberts signed the MOU to join the Federally-funded SBAC testing consortium. This was also done without any sort of Board approval. In fact, she informed the board that she had signed the ‘application’ for membership. The SBAC MOU requires the board to adopt the CCSS by December 31, 2011, and the SBAC testing by the 2014-15 school year. (, p.286)

It was also in the May meeting that the Board was told about the Statewide Longitudinal database (SLDS), funded with a $9.6 M federal grant. The SLDS grant requires tracking of individual student and teacher information, making it interoperable with other state agencies and other states. No discussion of privacy or informed parental consent is mentioned. (

On June 2, 2010, the official CC standards were released. On June 4, 2010, the Board was asked to adopt the CC standards ‘on first reading’ and to ‘accept the whole thing as it is.’ Supt. Shumway explains why the Board is adopting on first reading: ‘The reason for that is various, sort of, strategic reasons as we may find ourselves in an interview relative to our Race to the Top application.’ The board votes, unanimously, to accept the whole CCSS, 2 days after it is released and on first reading in order to be strategic in its RTTT application. In August, the board votes again, on third reading, to adopt CCSS.

In short, the SBOE had no formal votes on two MOU’s that obligated the state to more than just standards.

Side note: The same 4 ‘assurances’ in the RTTT were required in the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund (SFSF) that Governor Huntsman and Supt. Harrington signed for in April, 2009. In order to be eligible for RTTT, the state had to have had both Phase 1 and Phase 2 SFSF applications approved by the US Dept of Ed (USDOE).

So far, the requirements of the USDOE were done from an incentive perspective: we’ll give you the possibility of more money in exchange for your compliance with our demands. With the advent of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Waiver, the compliance was tied to punishments—lack of control over funding, and a potential loss of funding, for poor schools. Since the states had already put the 4 reforms into place, there was no reason to not sign onto the Waiver. The Waiver got rid of the insane requirement that every student in the state would be proficient in English and Math or the school would face sanctions of their Title 1 monies. With such a draconian requirement and funding punishments in place, who wouldn’t want out? And if all that you needed was to agree to continue doing what you were already doing, it sounded great. So, in 2012, the SBOE applied for and received a Waiver from NCLB. (The Waiver, arguably, was not valid under NCLB.) The initial waiver was for 2 years. Subsequent waivers have only been offered for a single year. This allows the USDOE to include whatever additional requirements they want, knowing that no state with a Waiver will want to get out of it, even as the requirements become more controlling.

It’s really a brilliant strategy.

  1. Offer money and other incentives for the 4 reforms
  2. Get SBOE’s across the nation to adopt your reforms for the ‘bribes’ that you offer in a voluntary manner. That way there is plausible deniability that the Feds coerced the states. “Come, little state, do you want some candy?”
  3. Once the 4 reforms are in place, offer to mitigate bad law with an agreement to continue those 4 reforms.
  4. Once the mitigation is in place, then draconian punishments are now associated with withdrawal from any of the 4 reforms.
  5. Once so many states are on board with the 4 reforms, the free market is, naturally, reduced to only catering to this national education model, originally incentivized by the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund in 2009.


April, 2009: State Fiscal Stabilization Fund application, signed Governor and State Superintendent

May, 2009: CCSS MOU signed by Governor and State Superintendent. No formal Board Vote.

May, 2010: State Board Chair Signs SBAC (testing consortia) MOU. No formal Board Vote. Also, signed by the Governor and the State Superintendent.

June 2, 2010: CCSS standards are released

June 4, 2010: State Board votes to accept the standards, in whole on first reading, in preparation for an interview about the RTTT application with the US Dept of Ed. RTTT, Phase 2 application reported to the SBOE as having been submitted.

August 6, 2010: State Board votes again to accept the CC standards, in whole.

June, 2012: First Waiver from NCLB granted to Utah


Quotes from SBOE meetings:

May 1, 2009:

Dr. Brenda Hales: “They would like to have us to sign a memo of agreement by Monday if we’re going to do it.”

Dr. Hales: ” Another con is although states are going to have lots of impact, in fact they’re going to have the opportunity to review the standards, they are not going to allow the states to have, to take a team to be a part of this.”

Dr. Hales: ”and the reason they’re doing it is because the other pro to this, the money that’s coming out for Race to the Top, the RF funds that are half billion, not million, half billion dollar grants are at least partially dependent upon the states having standards that can be looked at in terms of international benchmarks.”

Dr. Hales: “They want the Race to the Top grant to be individual states, but part of the criteria for showing that you are part of the group that is worthy of Race to the Top grant, can’t think of any other word, is that you’ve worked with other states on different issues so, in other words, you don’t put in a grant, it’s an odd mix of highly cooperative and highly competitive funding because what they’re talking about is you have to be cooperative with each other to qualify and then you compete as an individual state for the money and a half a billion is no small chuck of change.”

Janet Cannon: I was ready to make a motion and the thought just ran through my mind, you know, we do have the option of opting out but we are also putting ourselves in a position where we can apply for, have a better opportunity to apply for funds and grants and so forth. So my motion is- Oh.

[Unknown]: I have a problem [inaudible.] This is an information item.

Janet Cannon: Oh, I have listed as an action item, national common standards under tab number seven.

[Unknown]: My agenda says information

Debra Roberts: Oh, the agenda does say-information, but the yellow sheet says anticipated action.

Laurel Brown: Yeah, but the anticipated action is that we’ll discuss the materials.

Janet Cannon: Oh, ok. I was just looking up at the top that says action.

Brenda Hales: You can give me general direction.

Debra Roberts: Okay. Is the Board comfortable with giving Brenda some general direction to move forward on the national common standards and signing a MOU?

Laurel Brown: I’m comfortable with that.

David Thomas: I’m a dissenting vote.

June 4, 2010:

Laurel (Committee report) 7:00: Recommending that the board adopt the common core of states standards as a framework on first reading and we have time for the board members to go in and study this material and then we have second and third reading in August. The momentum in terms of this, although we can do it at any point in time, it is something we probably want to move ahead on more quickly rather than later. Acceptance of the Common Core standards does have some bearing in terms of the points that we receive for our second application for the funding from the federal government. So that would need to happen quite quickly. There is some angst among some people in terms of having to accept a common core standard, and so some of you may still be at that level. Many of us have already gone through that and feel ready to move ahead. We need to bear in mind that if Utah accepts the Common Core standards as iterated by that committee and it has been vetted through multiple people and agencies….if we do it, we accept the whole thing as it is. We don’t nit-pick and wordsmith this, it’s accept it. Then at that point, in terms of using it as a framework, we can plug in the details…map out the curriculum in terms of what’s actually going to happen in the classroom…. we can add to it, we just can’t take away any of that curriculum.

19:45: Brenda Hales: We know you haven’t had time to look, so if the board adopts on first reading, then it gives you time the next month and a half to review it for second and third in August.

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

20:00: Shumway: The reason for that is various, sort of strategic reasons as we may find ourselves in an interview relative to our Race to the Top application.

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

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