Provo USOE Meeting Report

Here’s a quick rundown on the Provo USOE meeting this past week. Syd Dickson was running the meeting and got up and started asking people for concerns they had with the standards. Frankly, I was stunned at the length and breadth of concerns people expressed. A very short list: the process of adoption; government control leads to a decrease in achievement; what makes us think this will work; who will be held accountable when they fail; who was involved in writing the standards; in adopting 6-9 grade standards which are integrated we are heading toward adopting k-5 and 9-12 without even seeing them; limits curriculum options because of the standards; what are the costs of adoption; people can’t trust USOE; why is the public just now aware of NGSS being what was copied to the Utah SEED standards; lied to about not adopting common core in science; concern over what else are we adopting from national standards like sex ed; inappropriate topics for 6-8 graders like politically charged items; and passing out 6-8 grade standards that didn’t even show all the content that teachers would be given so we could properly evaluate the standards.

The list went on and on. They filled roughly 10 easel size pages with concerns.

Three state school board members were in attendance, Joel Wright, Mark Openshaw, and Brittney Cummins. I haven’t had time to speak with any of them but Joel Wright did tweet one of my comments that this was a rubber stamp process.

After listing many of the concerns and chewing up about 20-30 minutes with that, we moved to public comments. Syd Dickson started out by announcing she felt cyberbullied this week over the video that was posted showing her and Dr. Martell Menlove stating Utah would never adopt Common Core science or social studies standards. She made a few comments which I can’t recall precisely now but I felt she was trying to split hairs saying NGSS isn’t really Common Core because it was created by Achieve and not the CCSSO/NGA so they’ve been honest saying we wouldn’t adopt Common Core science. This is completely wrong. During public comment I was the first to get up and explain the following.

In early 2012, during the same time frame and same state school board members, an employee of the USOE contacted me and told me that the USOE was internally planning on adopting the Common Core science and social studies standards. Outwardly they were telling people (and publishing online) that they had no intention of adopting CC science and it was a fallacy that adopting math and ELA were a slippery slope to science standards adoption. I said I was not surprised in the least that the USOE had brought NGSS/CC science to the state board as the standards they wanted to adopt. The state board didn’t create these standards or request them but the USOE and their supporters want to claim that the state board supports these standards because they voted to put them out for public comment. This is a major fallacy as the state board members had nothing to do with this and just voted to get public input on what the USOE had “created” for Utah.

(to watch the video and see other facts about the adoption lies go to this page:

Near the end of the meeting, Steve Whitehouse, a charter school board member, corroborated my story and said that he too had correspondence with USOE employees in this early time frame that they were telling him the USOE had full intentions of adopting these other national standards while denying it publicly.

It is also insane for the USOE to claim that Next Generation Science Standards aren’t Common Core because Achieve Inc. receives its funding from the Gates Foundation as did the CCSSO & NGA. Gates money funded all sets of national Common Core standards (science by Achieve, and math and ELA by CCSSO/NGA). Pappa Gates funds everything in the Common Core village.

Further, NGSS itself says this on its FAQ page:

Will the new standards be the Common Core State Standards for Science?

In the end, the decision to adopt the standards and make them consistent between states lies in the hands of the states themselves. The goal was to create robust, forward-looking K–12 science standards that all states can use to guide teaching and learning in science for the next decade. Thus, the National Academies, Achieve, the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) collaborated with states and other stakeholders to ensure the standards are of high quality—internationally benchmarked, rigorous, research-based and aligned with expectations for college and careers.

How will states use these standards documents?

To reap the benefits of the science standards, states should adopt them in whole without alteration. States can use the NGSS, as they are using the CCSS in English language arts and mathematics, to align curriculum, instruction, assessment, and professional preparation and development.

NGSS standards were always intended to be the national science standards to compliment and be implemented with Common Core ELA and math. The USOE lied to the parent review panel telling them these standards were Utah created and written when they’ve been planning this adoption for years.

Also of great concern is an issue Vince Newmeyer raised. A state that does not give attribution to NGSS is either in violation of the copyright or it is a tacit admission the state is in the process of “adopting the NGSS in whole.” So a state doesn’t have to declare the attribution if they are planning to adopt them in whole if they only start with a part.

Now, what’s wrong with the standards themselves? They are integrated so instead of discrete years of studying separate topics and subjects, things are clumped together in a “crosscutting” fashion to address a topic from multiple scientific angles. This obviously has some benefits, but I would have greatly preferred the USOE pull in teachers from around Utah, come up with our own crosscutting plan that matches our already good standards, examined standards from other states that are highly rated, put together a plan in a transparent way, and then implemented it starting in K-4 and add a year at a time. Starting in 6-8 guarantees that things children were taught in one year will be retaught to them in the next year or two again causing boredom. Mid-stream implementations are problematic as we saw with the CC math implementation when children repeated an entire year of math because CC math slows down the curriculum by a full year (algebra 1 is completed in 9th grade instead of 8th unless you are in the honors track by 7th grade).

For a few specific examples of what’s wrong…

One public school teacher got up and said how much he loved what these standards were trying to accomplish but then apologized several times and stated how some were so poorly written he couldn’t even understand what he was meant to accomplish. Syd Dickson told him he had nothing to apologize for, but I took it as a sign of the fear teachers have in speaking out against things that come from the state office. I believe the standard he brought up was 6.4.2 which says:

“6.4.2 Develop a model to generate date for iterative testing and modification of a proposed object, tool, or process such that an optimal design can be achieved.”

Huh? Where is the clarity?

Here’s a couple of the 6th grade standards:

“6.2.4 Ask questions to clarify evidence of the factors that have caused the rise in global temperatures over the past century.”

“6.4.3 Construct an argument supported by evidence for how increases in human population and per-capita consumption of natural resources impact Earth’s systems.”

This is meant for 6th grade discussion and it’s clearly already headed down a controversial path. Global warming is not fact. There are all kinds of issues with it and it is totally inappropriate to introduce such a thing to 6th graders. Same with the potential for discussions on overpopulation. These types of issues are best left for later high school or college, where they are presented clearly with the best arguments on both sides of the issue. It’s way too easy to indoctrinate students by presenting things early in life as factual which are actually under much scrutiny. Students place way too much trust in teachers as the authority figures and if the standards and curriculum lay down a certain path, those students are going to believe it forever.

In 7th grade we get more controversy.

“7.2.4 Apply scientific ideas to construct an explanation for the anatomical similarities and differences among modern organisms and between modern and fossil organisms to infer evolutionary relationships.

Wow is that ever one sided. It’s no longer the theory of evolution in these standards, it’s factual and you need to explain it and make inferences to explain how one life form evolved into others. There are massive holes in the theory of evolution. This does not address any of them.

There are still two science meetings left. Be sure to attend the one closest to you (click for details: Logan and Salt Lake). The USOE has no doubt invited their pro-supporters out (even though they started off with these public meetings by just posting an announcement online and not inviting school districts at all).

To me, the only solution I see at present is for personnel change at the USOE. It must have its budget cut. They provide no classroom benefit, they are all about putting us on national standards, and the state board is so far letting them take us down that road and relinquishing their own power (although I just heard positive news they have sent back the Fine Arts standards the USOE proposed because they are the national standards version as well).

Here’s press coverage of the Provo meeting:

Here’s a video recording of the meeting.

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