I received several copies of an email today that Superintendent Bergeson of the Washington county school district sent to parents of the Dixie middle school. I believe this same superintendent was on air running radio ads during the legislative session announcing that all teachers love Common Core (which is what inspired our teacher ad which we ran in the St. George area). I was asked to reply to this letter and I decided to do it online so that parents can more easily share this post with their neighbors through Facebook and email.
Dear Parents of Dixie Middle School Students,
There are some misunderstandings regarding the Utah State Board of Education’s Core Standards (Utah Core Standards). Although similar, our Utah Core Standards differ from the Common Core State Standards that were initially adopted by 44 states. The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) have served as a political platform for some, including popular media, to create confusion, uncertainty, and in some extreme cases, fear. As such, I felt it necessary to clarify a few of the misconceptions that are being circulated.
Sup. Bergeson is completely right. There are some misunderstandings about Utah’s Core Standards. The misunderstanding is completely his. Superintendent Menlove has already clarified publicly that the Utah Core IS COMMON CORE. Now to be completely clear, the Utah Core covers all subjects while we have only adopted Common Core math and ELA. Common Core has never served as a political platform for anyone except President Obama who has announced the idea was his and we should all be grateful for it.
1. The State of Utah has complete control of Utah’s learning standards in all areas of our public education curriculum. In a letter to former State Superintendent Larry Shumway and Governor Gary Herbert, United States Secretary of Education Arne Duncan reaffirmed that the State of Utah has “…complete control of Utah’s learning standards in all areas of our public education curriculum.” Secretary Duncan went on to further affirm this as he concluded that, “States have the sole right to set learning standards.” (March 7, 2012) Once again, we reaffirm that Utah has not adopted the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) but has retained it’s right to establish the Utah Core Standards.
In a court of law, which trumps which Superintendent? A memorandum of understanding that Utah filed with the feds as part of our official waiver from No Child Left Behind (which a court might term a “contract”) which says Utah agrees to “fully adopt Common Core as written” and “only add up to 15%” to the standards, or a non-contractual letter from Arne Duncan? Hint: contracts have supremacy over non-contractual documents. Further, if the feds fund the assessments and tie student performance to the tests, and 45 states have signed on, how easy can we change the test? Do you honestly think that Utah or any state on Common Core, would change the standards when the TESTS ARE BASED ON THOSE EXACT STANDARDS? The feds control us at this point. They know we’re not going to change the standards because then we’d lose that transferability of students between states that everyone touts as one of the several awesome benefits of Common Core. Once again, I reaffirm that you should read Superintendent Menlove’s comments linked to above that clearly state Utah has adopted Common Core as the “Utah Core.”
2. The Utah State Board of Education adopts the standards but school districts, including schools, teams, and teachers, select the curriculum best suited to meet that standard. We understand the complexity of identifying the most suitable curriculum, resources, and text to meet our Utah State Standards. Teacher time is at a premium. Because of this, a great deal of time and energy is spent at the district level researching, receiving teacher input, and forming focus groups to vet the myriad of available programs and resources in order to identify those that best meet our needs in the Washington County School District.
If a state adopted standards and there are no textbooks available except through a few vendors who just by chance happened to be part of the creation of Common Core’s standards, does that really mean local schools had a choice in curriculum selection? Common Core is a corporate boondoggle. Pearson, McGraw-Hill, and a few others stood to make billions putting smaller companies out of business. They should be prosecuted for insider trading. Now I don’t know what extraordinary measures you went to in Washington County SD to determine the best programs from the myriad of available options, but I can’t imagine the choice was quite as difficult as you make out since I know in other areas of the state the choices were not very plentiful. That’s one of the reasons the state office of education decided to put together their own ad hoc math curriculum written by 5 constructivist math teachers which starts off with an exercise in group think and gets worse from there.
3. The Utah Core Standards do not lower academic expectations. The standards raise the bar in Language Arts and Math, making sure ALL Utah students are prepared to compete in an ever changing global economy. Utah State Senator Howard Stephenson affirmed, “ I am convinced the Utah Core Standards in math and language arts are right for Utah students. These standards will better prepare our students for college and to be competitive in the global economy. These standards are in harmony with Utah values.” (April 2012). There is a growing majority of teachers who acknowledge that the increase in rigor, relevancy, application and collaborative problem solving required of students, as a result of the new Utah Core Standards, is helping with critical thinking skills and better preparing them for post-secondary endeavors.
By “do not lower academic expectations” do you mean that Common Core elevates math by pushing completion of algebra 1 into 9th grade under Common Core instead of 8th grade where is used to be? Dr. David Wright, math professor at BYU, has written an enlightening op-ed you may wish to refer to about the horrid implementation of Common Core math in Utah. I think you should ask Senator Stephenson where he stands now on Common Core and not from 2 years ago. Back then, Utah barely knew what had hit her. Now that teachers and legislators and the public have seen more of Common Core, they are growing more horrified at the sheer stupidity of math assignments, the compounding confusion of constructivism, and the abandonment of common sense when educrats were so against No Child Left Behind but have embraced Common Core which is NCLB on steroids.
4. Our commitment to the professional learning community (PLC) process provides us our best chance to meet the varied needs of our students and the standards which are established. This, above all else, is why we are passionately committed to the PLC process. Programs change, curricula changes, even our assessment systems change. These changes have become part of our current educational climate. What has not changed is the need for schools to function as true PLCs and for teachers to work in highly effective teams. Because of this, it becomes more critical than ever that we focus on working in highly effective teams that:
If I didn’t think it was sacrilegious, I would type out a prayer right here to give me strength. Do you not see how Common Core does NOT EVEN BEGIN TO MEET VARIED NEEDS?!?! There is a lawsuit in Alpine school district right now based on this very issue. The whole purpose of Common Core was to STANDARDIZE CHILDREN. Bill Gates came along and saw inefficiencies in the computer world and said, “if we just had a single great platform where everything worked the same, it would introduce super efficiencies to the business world.” Lo and behold, Bill signed an agreement with UNESCO in 2004 to create a global education system and standardize children on a single platform which came to be known as Common Core. Under Common Core we are treating all children like identical factory parts that just need the same nuts and bolts strapped on them in order to turn out perfect little products. Common Core isn’t meant to improve critical thinking, it’s meant to drive differences and diversity right out of the human spirit.
1. identify those things that every student NEEDS to know,
Do you really think Common Core specifies what “every student NEEDS to know?” Does Common Core contain standards on how to open a checking account? How to balance a budget? Common Core is a very small subset of things that a very small group of people deemed students should know by a certain grade level, without doing any research and without pilot testing the standards for appropriateness. Further, the standards were never benchmarked internationally as has been stated.
2.develops and frequently give common formative assessments,
How often do you think children need formative assessments? We are stressing kids out already. Isn’t learning supposed to be joyful to teach children to love learning? Why do we keep having behavioral problems in schools? Why can’t schools interest those students? Hmmm…. Something to ponder.
3. effectively uses data from these assessments to collaboratively identify which students need extra assistance and those who are prepared for extensions, and
4. provide immediate and specific intervention focused on the lacking skill or concept.
This is one of the few things in your letter I agree might be one of the outcomes. By testing and trying to identify the specific areas of weakness, you can tell where a child has problems. Of course if you didn’t do testing and let teachers create a positive environment, students could feel comfortable asking questions and getting answers and I’m guessing teachers could still figure out where a child was weak in a skill.
Please understand that we are learning together. Our school board, district office staff, schools and teacher teams are committed to fully embedding the PLC process. This IS what will drive learning in our schools and provide us with our best chance of ensuring that each and every student in the Washington County School District learn at high levels.
No, this is what will drive SCHOOLING, not learning. Becoming educated and schooled are two different things. Common Core and the compulsory education model are designed to school children. Make them obedient to authority, put them on a schedule, and drive the love of learning from them. You’re not ensuring students learn at high levels. Common Core doesn’t even reach high levels. In high achieving countries they are 2 years ahead of Common Core by 8th grade.
For further information and resources regarding our Utah Core Standards, please visit washk12.org and click on the “Utah State Board of Education Core Standards” icon.
Superintendent Larry Bergeson
To you parents in Washington County School District, please read all the references I’ve linked to. Do your own homework, and watch the new Common Core movie to hear what the content and validation committee experts have to say about Common Core, and why you should oppose Common Core to protect your children and ensure they become educated.