SB235 Effectively Federalized Utah’s Education System and Federalization is Anti-Family

Senate Bill 235 – School Turnaround and Leadership Development passed at the midnight hour of Utah’s legislative session last night. It passed under a different name though—”Education Modifications.” It sounds much more innocent that way. This bill, while already passed, MUST STILL BE CHALLENGED! Why? It codified Obama’s Federal Waiver reforms into state law and, for all intents and purposes, federalized Utah’s entire education system. Federalization is Anti-Family because it’s Anti-Agency.

Are we willing to tell our children and grandchildren that we sat back and allowed it to happen? Please say no.

Below, I am sharing a letter that I sent to a member of the Utah State Board in November 2014 (credits go to Michelle Boulter of Return to Parental Rights for allowing me to include her excellent research). I also shared portions of this with Senator Niederhauser and his SB235 co-sponsor Rep. Bradley Last.

Parents, delegates who voted down Common Core, and taxpayers must rise up to hold these legislators, and those legislators who supported SB235, accountable for their actions. And, there must be a call to repeal this bill. We must demand that the State School Board, Utah’s Attorney General Sean Reyes and Auditor John Dougall AUDIT THIS FEDERAL PROGRAM if we want to preserve parental rights and local education control.

 

Dear Utah State Board member,

Were you aware that the US Department of Education funds the federal Center for School Turnaround? This is a program that trains school and district leaders how to implement the federal education reforms linked to President Obama’s Race to the Top/Common Core. The goal is to “develop district and school leadership skills needed to meet the challenges of turning around low-performing schools.” The Utah State Office of Education has a 5-year contract to run district/school leaders through this federal program. The program is headed by WestEd and the 2009 Stimulus-created/funded testing consortia SBAC (Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortia)?

Why is SBAC involved with state/district school turnaround training? Could it be that federal turnaround measures are directly tied to Common Core testing and the revamping of instructional models in our local schools?

My hope is that you will audit this federal program. The information below unveils how the Utah State School Board has been losing “general control and supervision” of Utah’s education system. Much of that control is being lost to the Utah State Office of Education which is operating as an unaccountable 4th branch of government directing federal education programs in Utah. The Obama administration is funding programs through state offices of education, and other avenues, in unprecedented levels. I hope you can help restore your elected power for the sake of parental rights.

I don’t know if you read my op-ed in the Deseret News that talked about ObamaCare architect, Ezekiel Emanuel’s admitted malintent behind healthcare reform. Ezekiel said, “Be prepared to kiss your insurance company goodbye forever.” Common sense tells us that the intent behind federal education reforms is the same. There is a reason why Ezekiel’s brother, former Chicago Superintendent Rahm and his buddy, US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, are leading school “turn around” reforms. The Federal Government is working to “turn around” schools under Title 1 in order to require that more community services be provided via schools. Because Federal FERPA laws trump HIPPA, this will allow for more, and all kinds, of federal-level data collection on children as schools are turned into community, health and counseling centers. Technology will facilitate most of the reforms that superintendents will be trained in. See: “ConnectED to the Future Convening Brings Future Ready Superintendents at the White House.”

http://www.ed.gov/blog/2014/11/connected-to-the-future-convening-brings-together-future-ready-superintendents-at-the-white-house/

Here’s the link to the Federal Center For School Turnaround. It states, “The US Department of Education created a Center on School Turnaround and awarded a five-year grant and cooperative agreement to WestEd to administer the new center.

http://centeronschoolturnaround.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Evolution_of_School_Turnaround2.pdf

Here’s the Utah State School Board’s/USOE announcement about joining this federal partnership via the University of Virginia’s Darden/Curry Partnership for Leaders in Education.

http://utahpubliceducation.org/2011/12/23/utah-school-leaders-participate-in-school-turnaround-initiative/#.VGTijIdSa_0

Here’s WestEd touting Ogden District as their model for the Federal Reforms:

http://www.wested.org/wp-content/files_mf/1379439998Ogden_Case_Study.pdf

New State Superintendent Brad Smith (and I assume he is a great guy) went through this Federal training as Ogden District’s Superintendent. It’s anticipated that all Utah districts will go through training.

This article details the federal “turnaround” training programs for superintendents and principals funded through Obama’s Race to the Top. It states, “Both the transformational and turnaround models of Obama’s school restructuring plan begin with a directive to replace the principal, and in the latter case, at least half the teaching staff as well.” (Note: These are the kinds of reforms that took place in the Ogden school district under then Superintendent Brad Smith before he became Utah’s Superintendent)

The article continues, “And with the other two options—the close/consolidate model, which closes schools and transfers students to higher performing schools, and the restart model, which closes schools and reopens them as charters—principals are also likely to find themselves out of work.”

“With 74 percent of schools eligible for improvement grants opting for the transformational model—which calls for a comprehensive overhaul of instruction (pedagogy tied to Common Core standards), evaluation systems and other school operations in addition to replacing the principal—the need for effective administrators is a pervasive problem, Connelly says. But it’s especially dire in the persistently low-performing schools where pressures and challenges are high and strong leadership is crucial, she adds.”

“… No longer are principals regarded as performers of largely managerial duties. Today’s principals need skills in analyzing data to drive successful instruction(Data isn’t the friend of local control. It’s what controls everything from the federal level).

Because State Superintendent Brad Smith was trained in this federal program, and Ogden was the pilot district, some see it as the sole reason for his decisions to fire teachers and principals in Odgen. The Federal objectives are that superintendents, principals and teachers will eventually be replaced by superintendents from crony corporate/federal reform camps like Jeb Bush’s Chiefs for Change or Eli Broad’s Broad Academy with Principals from Arne Duncan’s Principal Corp and teachers from groups like Teach for AmericaMicrosoft is one of the main funders of this Federal turnaround program, and they have a vested interested in Common Core standards.

In our most recent conversation, you tended to think that Business/Corporate reforms support the education vision of many on the Utah State School Board. I don’t. I think that Corporate Reforms in our current political climate are Federal/Crony-Capitalist Funded reforms all tied to Common Core standards in order to support data comparability across the country and nations. (See that Pearson is taking over the United Nation’s PISA exams in 2018.) It’s not about improving student achievement. It’s about dismantling locally controlled education and creating an endless stream of taxpayer profits for those in power as their policies (controlled by “the data” from test scores) dictate instruction requirements, hiring requirements, testing requirements, data collection requirements, 1-to-1 technology requirements, etc. The program is Corporate Ed reform just like Arne and Rahm did in Chicago. It’s all about crony capitalists taking over public schools deemed “turn around” schools based on test scores. These crony reforms have decimated the Chicago school system. The designated schools have to implement new instructional models (aligned to Common Core standards) and data based decision training, including reliance on behavioral data.

I want to digress for a minute and reference this quote from the federally-funded Common Core Next Generation Science Standards “Framework” creators—Achieve, Inc.:

“Students will make the greatest strides in learning science and engineering when all components of the system—from professional development for teachers to curricula and assessments to time allocated for these subjects during the school day—are aligned with the vision of the framework.”

Listen to what they reformers are saying! EVERYTHING AT THE LOCAL LEVEL WILL BE CONTROLLED BY THEM! This is the height of arrogance! These federal school turnaround reforms, and their associated reforms to education standards and tests, are about controlling local decision making using test scores as the nail in our coffin. IT’S COMPLETE STANDARDIZATION OF THE ENTIRE SYSTEM. The death nail to parental rights! The death nail in individual exceptionalism and personal agency!

Here’s what Ogden Superintendent Brad Smith said about attending the Darden/Curry training:

http://www.darden.virginia.edu/web/Darden-Curry-PLE/UVA-School-Turnaround/Testimonials/

In bullet 6 here, they say the program focuses on behavioral data:

http://www.darden.virginia.edu/web/Darden-Curry-PLE/About/Beliefs/

And, here, liberal education expert Diane Ravitch explains that the school turn around idea came from Arne Duncan’s days in Chicago when he came up with a plan called Renaissance 2010:

http://m.democracynow.org/stories/13673

Ogden Superintendent Brad Smith and his retrained Ogden crew were invited to  Governor Herbert’s office on Aug. 27th (before Smith was hired on as State Superintendent). Smith gave the Governor’s office his blueprint for reform. (Is this why he ended up being selected as State Superintendent?) The book was called “Leverage Leadership.” This book’s blueprint is not a Utah blueprint. It is THE federal Race to the Top/School Turnaround blueprint.

The author of Leverage Leadership is Paul Bambrick-Santoyo. He also wrote “Driven By Data“. He is on the Data-Driven Instruction faculty for New Leaders for New Schools (which is one of the main, federally-funded school turnaround training programs for districts). New Schools were  products of Arne Duncan’s crony-friend, John Schnur who headed Race to the Top. Politico wrote about Arne, Obama and John Schnur’s relationship here. One book reviewer explained the premise of the New School’s school turnaround model like this:

“The author’s main suggestion is that schools create a set of interim assessments that lead up to U.S. state assessments. He suggests that not only these, but also classroom assessments are created to mimic the format of state assessments. Doing this would leave very little room in a school’s assessment plan for contextualized assessments…. The narrow focus on preparation for U.S. state tests, which is the only measure of success mentioned in the book, is actually quite disturbing.”

“Leverage Leadership” describes a system of principals observing and micromanaging teachers and what happens in the classroom. Diane Ravitch exposes the agenda here.

And, Susan Ohanian exposed this about New Leaders for New Schools:

“The promo for the book Driven by Data promises that the book will show the reader “how to create a data culture” and “how to deal with resistance from your teachers.” It is recommended by Jon Schnur, co-founder and chief executive officer, New Leaders for New Schools, and senior advisor to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. He is to Race to the Top what Sandy Kress was to No Child Left Behind. And on 8/4/10, his outfit was rewarded by a payment of $616,474 from the US Department of Education, our tax dollars at work.”

I hope that’s enough information to help stop these reforms in Utah. School turnaround is not about helping disadvantaged children in Title 1 schools. It’s about schools becoming the nanny state. As US Secretary of Education said, “Schools MUST become the center of community life.” With these school turnaround programs, there will be a dramatic shift from families being the fundamental unit of society to schools controlling family education and health decisions. And, it will all be controlled by third-party/federal data.

Welcome to 1984.

Regards,

JaKell

p.s. more information included below for your reference.

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Wallace Foundations School Turnaround Field Guide defines turnaround: “Turnaround is a dramatic and comprehensive intervention in a low-performing school that: a) produces significant gains in achievement within two years; and b) readies the school for the longer process of transformation into a high-performance organization.” This definition sounds great yet the devil is in the details. When you look closely at HOW this turnaround will be implemented it doesn’t take long before you realize that with this “intervention” there will be a loss of local control and parental control.

The State Role In School Turnaround is a report produced by WestEd in 2014 outlining the states role in implementing the federal school turnaround program. It states that WestEd “is supported by the Center on School Turnaround through funding from the U.S. Department of Education”.  In the chapter entitled “Leveraging the Bully Pulpit” it reads, “When it comes to school turnaround efforts, chiefs can use the position to catalyze, support, enable, and sustain school turnaround efforts. Given limited resources at their disposal, effectively optimizing the bully pulpit is a key tool in a state chief’s toolbox” (p. 32).

The turnaround program, which is led and funded by the United States Department of Education, will monitor schools to make sure they are in compliance with the School Improvement Grants (SIG). All changes must be submitted and approved by the Department of Ed. The people hired to monitor the schools and districts are called “District Shepherds”. In the case study done for Ogden school district it describes what the district did for its turnaround schools. In 2011/12 school year Ogden superintendent submitted his resignation and Brad Smith was appointed the new superintendent for OSD (page 3). On page 5 of the case study it talks about the “District Shepherd”. Sandy Coroles, OSD’s Executive Director of Curriculum and Federal Programs, became the “District Shepherd”. It was noted by teachers that they “can’t go anywhere else in Utah and receive more professional development.”

The consortium for school turnaround in the southwest United States is called, Southwest Turnaround Leadership Consortium, funded by the Department of Ed as noted in Endnote 1.

Funded by the U.S. Department of Education, the Southwest Comprehensive Center was part of a network of regional and content centers providing state education agencies with high-quality, relevant technical assistance. From 2005 to 2012, the SWCC was operated by WestEd. In 2012, the SWCC was replaced by the West Comprehensive Center (WCC), also operated by WestEd.

This Consortium partnered with the University of Virginia to establish this turnaround program in the Southwest and all training takes place at the University of Virginia. Here is a copy of the agreement between Ogden School District and the University of Virginia for turnaround training. In 2014 Menlove sent a memorandum to the State Board in regards to the turnaround program grant.

An Important company to look into further is FSG Social Impact Consultants. From the website: FSG is a mission-driven consulting firm supporting leaders in creating large-scale, lasting social change.

This document, The School Turnaround Field Guide, is from FSG Social Impact Consultants. It states, “The size of the U.S. Department of Education’s current investments in education, coupled with the acute need of states and districts for funding, has put the federal government in a strong position to incent policy change and to set expectations for the types of turnaround strategies that states and local education agencies (LEAs) use.” (page 4)

Continued on pg.4-5, it talks about the turnaround in state’s NCLB Waivers:

Turnarounds. Replace the principal, rehire no more than 50 percent of the staff, and grant the principal sufficient operational flexibility (including in staffing, calendars, schedules, and budgeting) to implement fully a comprehensive approach that substantially improves student outcomes.

  • Restarts. Transfer control of, or close and reopen a school under a school operator that has been selected through a rigorous review process.
  • School Closures. Close the school and enroll students in higher-achieving schools within the LEA.
  • Transformations. Replace the principal, take steps to increase teacher and school leader effectiveness, institute comprehensive instructional reforms, increase learning time, create community-oriented schools, and provide operational flexibility and sustained support.

 

Pg. 7 Lists key players – First being the US Education department with funding which can “expand its efforts”. States and Districts play a role as well as Unions. It is being encouraged that Unions view this as a laboratory in which they are more willing to experiment with new types of contracts, new ways of collaboratively partnering with districts, new work rules, and new teacher-evaluation and pay-for-performance approaches” (pg.8).

 

Pg. 27 describes policies other states have put in place to help with the turnaround process. Tennessee passed legislation to create an “Achievement School District” akin to the Recovery School District in Louisiana. Low-performing schools would be removed from their home districts and placed under the state’s authority. Massachusetts’ SB 2247 increases school-level autonomy in failing schools and doubles the number of charter schools in its lowest-performing districts.

These practices are very dangerous and will only succeed in removing local and parental control from local school districts.

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