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 application that also included requirements for data collection. The USOE committed to the standards in our application before the standards were complete. Utah did not receive RttT money in the end, but by the time we knew this, the reforms were in place.
These are not just standards. Common core is just one piece of a much larger education reform agenda. The State Fiscal Stabilization Fund, Race to the Top grant, Race to the Top for Assessments, 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.
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 . 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 and threats of losing Title I money. As noted in several states’ board meeting minutes and audio from spring of 2009, the States had been invited to develop national standards   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 . This process is not compatible with those laid forth by our state or federal constitutions. According to the Utah Constitution, the only people who set standards that the Governor has the authority to help pick are the ones that go on the ballot for State School Board elections… not those who made up the privately-hired standards writing committee. 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. 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.
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.
In April James Milgram wrote a letter 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 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 to adopt the copyrighted standards as written, in their entirety. States can add a small amount to the standards, up to 15%.
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. The State Fiscal Stabilization Fund, Race to the Top grant, Race to the Top for Assessments, 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.
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 who has poured millions into the creation and promotion of CCSS has to say about the standards, assessments and aligned curriculum.
 http://www2.ed.gov/programs/racetothetop/executive-summary.pdf – due date page 2
 http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2010/06/02/33common.h29.html – Release date June 2
 http://www2.ed.gov/programs/racetothetop/executive-summary.pdf – page 2 UT applied for Phase 1 &2