Rebuttal to USOE Fact flier

The USOE (Utah State Office of Education) mailed out a flier (on our dime) to all GOP delegates making unsubstantiated statements to try and persuade them to vote against the anti-Common Core resolution on Saturday.

USOE’s QuickFacts in quotes, responses below:

1. In Utah, the term “Common Core” is limited to only the state level standards for mathematics and English language arts. In our state, those standards are not connected to data sharing, federal funding or mandates, or loss of local control of education.

Adopting Common Core standards, the only standards that fit the definition of “career and college ready standards,” was a condition of the federal Race to the Top RttT grant[1] application that also included requirements for data collection. The USOE committed to the standards in our application[2] before the standards were complete[3].  Utah did not receive RttT money[4] in the end, but by the time we knew this, the reforms were in place[5].

These are not just standards.  Common core is just one piece of a much larger education reform agenda[6].  The State Fiscal Stabilization Fund[7], Race to the Top grant[8], Race to the Top for Assessments[9], and No Child Left Behind Waiver all share the same 4 reform tenents.  Namely, standards and assessment reforms, accountability a.k.a teacher/principal evaluations-school grading, data systems, and school turn around reforms.[10]

2. The Common Core State Standards were created by the states, for the states. Utah adopted these standards in 2010, thus making them part of the Utah Core Standards.

“States” did not lead this effort. The National Governor’s Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) who led this process are non-governmental trade organizations who receive their funding from the federal government and private companies[13] [14].  Proponents of Common Core claim that President Obama is now trying to take credit for what the states started.  While it is true that there has been a movement toward centralized/nationalized education for a long time, President Obama catapulted his vision of education reform on the states with enticements of Stimulus money[15] and threats of losing Title I[16] money.  As noted in several states’ board meeting minutes and audio from spring of 2009, the States had been invited to develop national standards[17] [18] [19] by the US Dept. of Ed.  Further, the NGA and CCSSO are not elected representative bodies and their meetings are not open to the public[20] [21]. This process is not compatible with those laid forth by our state or federal constitutions[22].  According to the Utah Constitution[23], the only people who set standards that the Governor has the authority to help pick are the ones that go on the ballot[24] for State School Board elections… not those who made up the privately-hired standards writing committee[25]. State School Board members are elected to represent the will of the people of this state, not to represent the will of the NGA/CCSSO to the people of this state.

3. Utah and the nation’s economic strength depend on how well we educate our children to compete in a global economy. Utah teamed with other states to adopt evidence-based standards standards that will improve our economic standing in the world, both as a country and as a state.

A correlation between high student test scores (which is how states and countries are compared and ranked in education policy setting) and economic prosperity has never been empirically established: “Unfortunately for proponents of this empirically vapid argument it is well established that a rank on an international test of academic skills and knowledge does not have the power to predict future economic competitiveness and is otherwise meaningless for a host of reasons (Baker, 2007; Bracey, 2009; Tienken, 2008).”

4. The Common Core standards are internationally benchmarked to keep Utah students competitive in math and English language arts, not just with other students in the United States, but with students from around the world.

Sandra Stotsky and James Milgram, the only content experts who sat on the Common Core validation committee refused to sign off on the standards in part because no proof of international benchmarking was ever given.  They asked for specific countries used and none were supplied[26].  Their own comparisons with other nations led them to conclude that students following the CCSS would be two years behind their peers in countries with high test performance[27].

Additionally, in a March 2010 Massachusetts State Board Meeting Jason Zimba, one of the writers of the standards admitted that the standards were written to prepare students for a non-selective two-year college not a four year university[28].

In April James Milgram wrote a letter[29] to a UT citizen for the State School Board and this is what he had to say about international benchmarking – “I can tell you that my main objection to the Core Standards, and the reason I didn’t sign off on them was that they did not match up to international expectations.  They were at least 2 years behind the practices in the high achieving countries by the 7th grade, and, as a number of people have observed, only require partial understanding of what would be the content of normal, solid, course in Algebra I or Geometry. … They will not help our children match up to the students in the top foreign countries when it comes to being hired to top level jobs.”

5. The Utah State Board of Education controls the core for Utah and answers to no one but Utah voters on the issue.

The Utah State Board of Education answered to no one, especially not voters, in adopting the Common Core standards without publicity or public hearings.  Just recently in the audio[30] from the May 2nd board meeting where a resolution supporting Common Core was passed the comment was made, “This is just the beginning of really communicating the way we need to with the general public” and “we need to take our political messaging more seriously and consider it carefully”.  We elect the board to listen and represent the people not the other way around.

In this same meeting when discussing the NCLB (No Child Left Behind) waiver standards options, their legal counsel told the board, “Option B clearly says that you need the approval and certification of those institutions of higher education. In my opinion that is delegating authority, which may be scrutinized.  Cases with regard to delegation of constitutional authority that’s been constitutionally delegated is very fact specific.”   Yet, this is exactly what happened with the Common Core when the State Board delegated their authority to the NGA who certified the standards as “rigorous and internationally benchmarked”.

A step as significant as nationally aligned standards, affecting almost every student in the country should have involved a thorough public vetting process.

6. Utah can utilize any standards it chooses at any time with no penalty or repercussions. States created the standards and any state can withdraw at any time without penalty.

Great news! Let’s get out!

We’ve never said we can’t get out but that we want out.  The longer we go down the implementation road the more money we spend on these reforms and the harder it will be to get out.

Withdrawal would likely affect our ESEA flexibility waiver.  We should demand true Congressional relief from No Child Left Behind.

7. The Utah Core Standards are minimum standards of expectations of what students should be learning at each grade level and states are free to add to these standards. In fact, the Utah State Board of Educationis already developing additional standards in cursive and handwriting to add to the English language arts core.

The Utah State Board of Education voted in August 2010[31] to adopt the copyrighted standards as written, in their entirety.  States can add a small amount to the standards, up to 15%.

The RTTT[32], RTTTA[33], NCLB waiver[34] all use the same 15% language.

8. Nothing in Utah’s adoption of the Common Core State Standards promotes data mining of student’s personal information or other inappropriate use of student data. The Utah State Board of Education is committed to student and teacher privacy and will not share personally identifiable data.

Common standards has been the holy grail of researchers and data mining proponents for years as it greatly enhances the comparable sample size and the ability to compare data across states. One private education data mining company called the CC standards the “glue that ties everything together.” A state longitudinal student data system SLDS was another requirement of both the RttT grant program and the ESEA flexibility waiver. National, “student-level” longitudinal data (de-identified with a student number) instead of aggregate data, is the desired outcome of combining the SLDS with common standards. Making sure data is not “personally identifiable” is only one small safety measure and in no way addresses the many other privacy and policy concerns.

As stated under “fact #1” Common Core is just one piece of a much larger education reform agenda[35].  The State Fiscal Stabilization Fund[36], Race to the Top grant[37], Race to the Top for Assessments[38], and No Child Left Behind Waiver all share the same 4 reform tenents.  Namely, standards and assessment reforms, accountability a.k.a teacher/principal evaluations-school grading, data systems, and school turn around reforms.[39]

9. The Common Core is not a program, assessment system, data collection system, a curriculum, nor a federalization of state education programs. The Common Core is a set of standards – nothing more nor less than the Utah State Board of Education’s expectations for grade-level appropriate knowledge in core subjects. The determination on how to teach these standards rests solely with local schools.

The term “Common Core” specifically refers the standards that are an essential and most visible piece of a broader reform package that has no official name. As a result, the term is also often used (whether the Board condones it or not) to refer to the full package of reforms that were included in the federal incentives of RttT and the ESEA waiver, i.e. Common Core reforms, or Common Core agenda. Policy that affects our children should not be made without consideration to how each small piece interacts with all other factors. When those in the highest positions of authority over education don’t acknowlege the impact of nationally aligned standards in the overall context of other reforms such as data collection, unreviewable assessments, teacher accountability and school grading laws it is highly concerning and fosters a loss of confidence.

10. The standards are not one-size-fits all. Common Core standards for English and math are the same for states that adopt them, but local school districts, charters, principals, teachers and parents decide how these rigorous standards will be met. Standards do not mandate how teachers should teach of how students should learn–Utah will continue to innovate and share its successes with other states.

Standards generally determine what will be taught and in what order. Aligned tests, to which teacher pay is tied, have a more specific influence on curriculum. Practice standards, included in the CCSS, have been interpreted consistently to favor certain methods of teaching. The small sliver of local control over a narrowed selection of materials within the confines of the standards and assessments leaves little room for innovation.

Listen to what Bill Gates[40] who has poured millions into the creation and promotion of CCSS has to say about the standards, assessments and aligned curriculum.


[10] http://www.whitehouse.gov/issues/education/k-12

[11] http://www.nga.org/cms/home/about/financial-statements.html

[12] http://www.ccsso.org/who_we_are.html

[26] http://www.uaedreform.org/wp-content/uploads/2000/01/Stotsky-Invited-Testimony-for-Missouri-on-Common-Core.pdf – page 3

[28] http://www.doe.mass.edu/boe/minutes/10/0323reg.pdf – page 5

[29] http://whatiscommoncore.wordpress.com/2013/04/19/utahns-discuss-common-core-math/

[30] http://stream.schools.utah.gov/videoarchive/board/audio/2013/05-02-13/06_Board_Chairs_Report.mp3

 

 

 

10 thoughts on “Rebuttal to USOE Fact flier”

  1. Please check back throughout the day. I’m heading to a funeral and will continue sourcing this article as I have time.

  2. I want to go on record as opposing Common Core. It seems it was adopted just to get federal funding, which is an arm twister to allow more government control and intrusion into our lives. Please review this program more closely and become thoroughly informed before foisting this program on the upcoming generation.

  3. In your ref: 23, it says that the “general” control and supervision of the public education system is vested with the State Board of Education. That seems consistent with what the board of education did, which is that they looked into the Common Core and approved it, based on their professional judgement.
    They are charged with considering a child’s education as their foremost priority and they take it seriously. We should let them do their job and try not to let a small vocal group derail the process while confusing political/religious ideology with academic goals.

  4. Dear Anonymous:

    Objections to Common Core go way beyond political and/or religious objections. Multiple aspects of Common Core do not even meet the very basics of scientific standards in multiple fields directly related to education. I encourage you to explore what these may be on your own time, as opposed to letting the “State Board of Education” do your homework for you. Several members of the Board are against Common Core as currently drafted and be instituted state wide…..I have met with several of them….I encourage you to do the same.

    1. Dear Dr. Thompson,

      I agree that there might be limitations in the standards and that experts and board members disagree with it. But at the end of the day, the board, as a state executive agency approved it and I would like to defer to their professional judgement. I read through the standards as presented on the official core standards website and I did not find anything there that is objectionable. While I strive to help my children learn the ropes of life, I am also aware of my limitations in the education field and there, I leave most of the responsibility to the teachers, principals, school districts to make judgements about the standards and curriculum. I talked to school teachers and college professors who are closer to the frontline and while they had some reservations about some CC aspects, the ones I talked to unanimously agreed that CC was a step in the right direction. They also felt that there will be bumps for the first few years as the teachers and students get used to it but are grateful that CC just sets standards and allows the teachers to choose the curriculum and specific teaching methods tailored to the kids.
      Boards of education from 45 states adopted CC. The Council of chief state school officers from those 45 states signed off on it. That gives a lot of credence to CC. The one thing that the Boards and the Council might not have considered is how some scientific claims and evidence might conflict with some religious beliefs. But they have an obligation to let schools teach science and leave it to families and churches to teach religion. Yes, there will be conflicts between the two but we had the same conflicts back in the dark ages and learnt that the best thing for civilization is to recognize that both of them have separate and important roles and to not let them destroy each other.

      1. As a former teacher (I resigned last year) and current substitute, none of the teachers I’ve talked to support the Common Core and it has nothing to do with whatever scientific claims and evidences you reference. I do not believe CC is good just because 45 states adopted it. Like Utah, I suspect the driving forces were the grant money offered and the NCLB waivers. Utah tried for a grant but was not awarded; they were awarded a waiver on NCLB. Some of those 45 states are pulling out of CC because they’re seeing it for what it really is. As a teacher, I have been through core adoptions in the past and this one was nothing like the other adoptions. The other adoptions didn’t have the “bumps in the road” that CC is creating. Calling a couple of years (minimum) of lost math skills is more than a “bump in the road.”

        Even if this was the best set of standards in the world, the way it was developed and states were encouraged to adopt it with money is wrong. I know the USOE has issued “fact” sheets but there is no backup to their claims; at least one claim has been changed since it has been challenged. The people who put together this website back up every claim they make, most of it with the words of those behind CC. The resistance of board members to actually engage in a conversation and answer questions adds to the hostilities toward CC and the USOE. As elected officials who are supposed to represent the people of Utah, they sure aren’t listening to those who have opinions different from theirs. That’s sad!

  5. The State Board of Education are not necessarily education experts, the are elected representatives from all different backgrounds. The board is not really an executive agency either, because they are elected and supposed to represent the people. An elected representative in a Republic does not have unchecked authority to do whatever he or she wants once the election is over. Their key responsibility is to those they represent. That is why the process of reviewing and selecting standards should have happened in meetings that were subject to open records. We can listen to the audio of their decision to adopt the standards, primarily for the Race to the Top grant money according to their own words at the time. The conversation in a recent State Board meeting when they passed a resolution reconfirming their position on Common Core is really telling. They speak of having to get better at communicating their will TO the people they represent, instead of getting better at communication WITH the people whose will they were elected to represent. I anticipate the next school board elections will see more civic participation than in the recent past. Finally, similar pushback is happening all over the country. Indiana’s legislature just put their Common Core implementation on pause until a cost analysis could be done and public hearings held. Michigan just passed a budget that defunds Common Core… and many more. So if we are looking to other states as an example, it looks like Common Core is not very popular after all.

  6. I received one of these fliers in the mail; my first thought was also that they used my money to send these out.

    Anonymous:
    It’s true that the general control of education rests with the SBOE, but we live in a republic, where citizens are free to do their own research, keep tabs on elected officials, and give feedback to them. Furthermore, the great American experiment is a quest to let man govern himself as much as possible. The SBOE has completely ignored that, and if not willing to listen carefully to our concerns and act with wisdom, should be replaced with someone who will.

    If this is truly a “small vocal group”… then it’s a sad indicator of Utah’s current citizens’ willingness to research.

    1. I wholeheartedly agree with your last sentence. So many people I’ve talked to are so overwhelmed with the amount of information and they’re hearing “facts” from the USOE and are trusting them to honestly report information. Every teacher that I’ve talked with has problems with the CC and how it’s being implemented but most are afraid to speak up, even to put their name on the petition to stop CC. Administrators also are wary of the repercussions of speaking out. If our education standards were being adopted and implemented correctly, the teachers would happily accept them. Instead, they are being scared into submission. I think that is wrong and, to me, adds to the skepticism of the whole thing.

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