Tag Archives: State School Board

Common Core an assault on liberties

Ed: This op-ed by Christel Swasey was published in the Deseret News (http://www.deseretnews.com/article/765632044/Common-Core-an-assault-on-liberties.html) on 6/13/13.

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Utah state GOP delegates officially disapproved Common Core when they passed the anti-common core resolution this year by a 65 percent vote.

Was that not enough for our state school board and governor?

Gov. Gary Herbert continues to promote the Common Core-dependent Prosperity 2020 initiative. And the state school board continues to label teachers and others who long to reclaim local control and who want legitimate, non-experimental education standards, “the misinformed.”

The fact is, we are not misinformed; we know what Common Core is, and we reject it.

The board won’t even respond to requests for specifics about what we’re so misinformed about.

Now, despite the Utah anti-common core resolution passing; despite the examples of Michigan, Indiana and other states passing time-out bills against Common Core implementation; despite Obama’s recent announcement that he plans to tax Americans to pay for Common Core technologies in his ConnectEd Initiative; still, Utah’s school board has not softened its rigorous-praise-of-Common-Core talking points and is moving it forward as if nothing is wrong.

In fact, the board markets Common Core as being beyond debate; it’s so minimalistic, so consensually adopted, so protective of privacy rights and so academically legitimate (none of which is true) that it is too big to fail and is beyond any future need for amendments (which is indeed fortunate for them, since there is no Common Core amendment process).

Something is truly amiss when experienced Utah teachers with credentials, like me, are perpetually rejected for requests to the state school board to discuss the pros and cons of Common Core. The board doesn’t want a two-sided discussion.

The board is silent on these simple questions:

Where is a shred of evidence to support the claim that Common Core improves education?

Where are any studies showing that the reduction of literary study improves college readiness?

Where is some evidence that slowing the age at which students learn math algorithms improves college readiness?

Where is any amendment process for Utah’s math and English standards, under the copyrighted Common Core?

How can one opt out of the Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems (SLDS) tracking and the Common Core tests?

Where is the legal — constitutional — authority for people outside our state to set our local standards and to create and monitor our tests?

Why does Utah stand by while Obama announces that he will redesign schools and tax all Americans to pay for it, without Utah putting up a fight?

Why is there a spiral of silence culture now, that demands everyone pretend to agree; where is freedom of expression and freedom of speech in the common agenda, now that teachers and principals don’t speak out for fear of losing their jobs?

How on earth can anyone call Common Core “state-led” when unelected boards that operate behind closed doors, that are not accountable to the public, developed and copyrighted the standards, bypassing voters and the vast majority of teachers and legislators?

Where is the line-item cost analysis of taxpayers’ money being spent on Common Core technologies, teacher training and texts?

When will state leadership address Common Core’s specific damages with the people who elected these leaders to serve us, rather than bowing to every federal whim?

Will the board and governor ever stand up to the Department of Education’s tsunami of assaults on liberties?

Will they continue to fight against local teachers and citizens who rightfully demand local liberty and who rightfully ask for proven, non-experimental, amendable standards — following the example set by the national and world-leading education system in Massachusetts, prior to Common Core?

 

Zinger Letter to State School Board Members

The more one studies about Common Core documents and what our elected officials are saying, the more one sees the lack of information they have of the big picture. It’s truly as if they just don’t want to see, hear, or speak the truth. Here is a letter sent to State School Board members from a citizen that took it upon herself to do her homework, attend meetings, listen to what our elected officials have to say, and then put the big picture together.

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Dear Elected Officials:

I am a part of “We the People”.  You are not in your position because you are smarter than the rest of us.  You are in your elected office because you chose to rise up and say, “I will serve the rest of you if you elect me.”  You were elected because We gave you permission to serve us.  You are in your office because “We the People” put you there.  We decided you could do your job after you communicated with Us what your plans were.  You are to report to The People your intentions.

Somehow that seems have been lost in the transition between you moving from civilian to a government representative of the people.  You have decided that you know better than We.  I am here to tell you, you don’t.  I don’t care what letters you have after your name.  I don’t care where you went to school.  I don’t care what your party affiliation is.  You do not know better than me as it relates to the education of my children.  Yet, Dixie Allen of the Utah State School Board stated in an email exchange with Christel Swasey, “Local Teachers and parents don’t know everything about what is quality education,” http://whatiscommoncore.wordpress.com/2013/04/19/utahns-discuss-common-core-math/   Really?  Why then do we entrust the children of Utah to their parents and teachers?  What an arrogant statement!  She also states in her rebuttal to Christel’s questions regarding the quality of the math standards that her experience as a teacher for 26 years and as a mother she is qualified to weigh in on this debate as a member of the State Board of Education.  I have been a teacher and I am a mother yet I am not qualified to determine what a quality education is for my children according to her first statement.  How does it work that her ability to judge comes from the very things she condemns as inadequate for the rest of the population?

Some very intelligent, educated people with letters after their names have done an incredible amount of research.  Some very intelligent, concerned parents have put in hours and hours researching articles, government documents, business practices and information, and claims as they relate to the Common Core Standards, Data Collection, and Computer Adaptive Testing.  These people may not hold a government office, but they have done their due diligence in researching this issue.  For you to dismiss their efforts because you hold a borrowed position is beyond arrogant.  All of you have an obligation to do all the research we have and weigh all the outcomes of this issue before you plow ahead and make it policy and law.  If there is dissent, as an elected official you have an obligation to consider the arguments, not just offer political answers to fit your agenda.  I can see that you have not done your due diligence in learning about all aspects of the Computer Adaptive Testing because it is evident in the S.A.G.E. meetings I have watched online and attended in person.

I am gravely concerned about Utah’s contract with A.I.R. and adoption of Computer Adaptive Tests for our children.  I have done a tremendous amount of research on the company A.I.R. and also have personal knowledge of how C.A.T.’s affect children as my children have taken these types of tests before.  It was an incredibly negative educational experience for them.   A.I.R. is the company Utah contracted with to provide the Computer Adaptive Testing under the title S.A.G.E. and it replaces the current CRT tests.  A.I.R.’s specialty is behavioral testing.  http://www.air.org/about/?fa=viewContent&content_id=96
Their mission and vision as stated from their website:

Mission

AIR’s mission is to conduct and apply the best behavioral and social science research and evaluation towards improving peoples’ lives, with a special emphasis on the disadvantaged.

Vision

Within the United States and internationally, AIR will be the preeminent organization that

  • produces improvements in education, health, and the workforce;
  • addresses the needs of individuals, organizations, and communities;
  • designs and advances statistical and research methods;
  • causes practitioners and organizations to adopt evidence-based practices; and
  • informs public understanding and policy making by the best evidence.

They are a company that specializes in behavioral and social science research.  Their first bullet point on their vision is to produce improvements in education, heath, and the workforce.  It is a coincidence they are the “preeminent organization” within the USA to produce these improvements just as The Affordable Care Act is ready to go online right about the same time Common Core is to be fully implemented?

What does this have to do with academics?  So teachers now get to know why little Johnny doesn’t understand math on a behavioral level?   Teachers are supposed to be psychologists too?  Actually no, A.I.R. has psychometricians who will analyze the behavioral markers in the test.  There was a considerable amount of dissent at the Davis County S.A.G.E. meeting about the need for a psychometrician to analyze the student’s test.  At the Davis County S.A.G.E meeting the Assistant Superintendent of Schools over testing, Judy Park, said that there was a great deal of misinformation about what a psychometrician does. She stated a psychometrician was someone who simply analyzed the academic test data; a statistician.  A member of the audience corrected her and informed the rest of us what a psychometrician does.  “Psychometricians play a major role in studying and analyzing human behavior. Their findings help companies hire people who are best suited for certain positions. Potential employees can benefit from tests that reveal what environments best showcase their skills. As more companies and industries incorporate psychometrics into their human resources operations, the potential for increased productivity and happier employers and employees grows.”
( What is a psychometrician?
)  Judy Park was also asked if behavioral markers would be imbedded into the tests to which she emphatically said no.  Why then does Utah need to do business with a company whose purpose is to provide behavioral testing (according to their mission statement) and employs psychometricians to analyze the behavioral markers in testing data?  Wouldn’t it be a huge waste of money if they aren’t doing what the company’s purpose is?  Why do our children need to be analyzed for their personality traits and opinions? This type of testing has been employed by corporations for many years now.  It helps them determine if a potential applicant is compatible with their company.  I find it is a good business practice for potential applicants as they are aware of the test and take it in accordance with their own desires to be employed.  It is another matter entirely to do this type of testing on children all in the name of academic rigor and without offering an option for parents to opt out of having their children participate.  Judy Park also stated parents can opt their children out of the testing but reminded the audience that schools must have a 95% participation rate on the testing or else the school is classified as failing and would lose funding (SB 271).  Isn’t that extortion?

A report from the Logan S.A.G.E. meeting included these comments from the meeting commentators.

“One lady was concerned that the adaptive nature of the tests was designed to make all kids fail 50% of the questions no matter how good they were.  Ms. Park said it was ok and noted that many kids already do not do well on tests and are used to it.”  Children already know they are failures so it won’t surprise them if they do poorly?  This is supposed to be good for our children?  “She said that the kids would be prepared and trained for what this new system would be like.”

“The lady restated that she was concerned with kids taking a test that didn’t end until the test adapted to outwit and fail them, stating ‘At which point does the test let up, once the child is vomiting?'”

Dr. Garrett said that it was going to be fun and challenging for good students to be newly presented with things in the test which they had never seen before or been taught before.  He said that the kids will recognize when the test starts quizzing them on new, never before presented material, stating that they would feel empowered that they must be doing well on the test and that it would be a positive thing for them.”( Logan S.A.G.E. meeting )  What child do you know that will find more testing fun and exciting?  The students are going to be tested on material they have never seen before or have never been taught and this is supposed to be fun?  Are these comments meant to pacify parent’s concerns?  This sounds like a recipe for disaster.  When has anyone ever been empowered by being tested on something they don’t know anything about?  Dr. Gary Thompson and his associate Edward D. Flint, Attorney at Law have spoken at great length about the ill effects of Computer Adaptive Testing on children.  I would encourage you to read his letter to Superintendent Menlove.

These are a few of the points that Judy Park considers the positive points for the Computer Adaptive Testing:

  • “Children will no longer need an IEP for certain basic testing accommodations, such as the text being enlarged to a bigger font on the computer screen, taking breaks or extended time for tests.
  • The testing/data system will be available in Braille.”

Children will no longer need and IEP?  Are you kidding me?  This test is supposed to be the end all be all of solutions for a student’s complex learning disability?  At the Davis County meeting I asked Judy Park what accommodations there were for students who could not take the SAGE test because of their IEP accommodations.  She stated the only accommodations would be those offered by the test.  What about students who need a verbal test?  She stated there were no accommodations for that.  I spoke with Superintendent Menlove the following week (May 3, 2013) in an impromptu meeting between him and other concerned parents and he stated there is a test that would be available for students with IEP testing accommodations.  It is called the Utah Alternate Assessment or U.A.A.  Shouldn’t  (Judy Park) Assistant Superintendent of Schools over testing know that this test is available for special needs students so that the students and their parents aren’t put through undue stress at test time?  If she is aware of this then she lied at the meeting.   If she isn’t aware this test exists, it begs the question, why not?  She is in charge of testing for Utah.

This is the kind of double talk parents are getting from the State Board of Education.  We ask questions and we either get 1/2 truths, outright lies, or apparent displays of incompetence.  The question continues to be put forth, why would you commit Utah to this outrageous education policy?  What are their answers?  The party line is that “standards are not curriculum, the new testing is wonderful and will help teachers better teach to their student’s needs, the data will not leave the district and will be protected.  The standards are internationally benchmarked and rigorous.”

I would like to ask the question, if this system is so wonderful, then why is there such dissent in Utah and all over the country for that matter?  The concerns aren’t just coming from some crazy right wing faction.  People from all political persuasions are concerned with the level of intrusion that will befall us all.   In the Unitah S.A.G.E. meeting held by the USOE, some light was shed on Utah’s involvement with all of this education reform. ‘ Dixie (Allen) also repeatedly stated that Utah must do Common Core because otherwise we cannot buy curriculum to match our core because we don’t spend enough money on education and therefore the curricula vendors don’t cater to us. No one in the room agreed with her on needing more money, but she made this claim repeatedly. Then when the question “How much will these new curricula materials to match common core cost us?” was asked, the answer was “Nothing, we’re making our own.” ‘ (Unitah SAGE Meeting

I have looked into what A.I.R. does.  They have four current contracts is with USAID.  The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)is committed to increasing the sustainable impact of our development assistance programs through strategic alliances with the private sector. Such alliances enable the Agency to leverage private sector markets, expertise, interests, and assets in a manner that solves critical development problems and promotes effective market led development. USAID Contract with A.I.R.

This sounds great until you get to page 5 where they talk about their value to the private sector.

“Global Development Alliances provide businesses with a number of opportunities to achieve core business interests. By participating in a GDA, businesses have been able to improve supply chain quality and reliability; increase sales; expand their customer base and access to new markets; develop new products and services; reduce operating costs; increase productivity; improve distribution systems; increase access to sufficiently qualified and skilled talent;improve relationships with key stakeholders; increase brand awareness; and mitigate key business risks.

Furthermore, businesses have been able to leverage USAID capabilities and assets to drive results.

For example:

•…in the ICT sector has provided businesses with the mix of human capital needed to improve productivity, reduce investment risk, and expand business operations”

What does this have to do with computer adaptive testing in Utah?  If A.I.R.’s contracted expertise is utilized by this government agency for the purpose of aiding countries around the world to partner businesses with human capitol needed to expand their business operations, then isn’t it strange Utah would only contract with them for academic testing?  That isn’t their specialty.  Their specialty is working with private businesses to test people to determine where those people can be utilized as human capitol to further economic development in those countries.  Their job is to aid countries in improving their workforce.  I cannot comment on the value of this program for other countries around the world but it seems to me to be huge waste of A.I.R.’s talents to under-utilize them with only analyzing academic information from standardized test, unless they really are doing more with the tests our Utah children will be taking.

One of A.I.R.’s contracts with USAID is:

“EQUIP1 is an LWA cooperative agreement designed to provide technical assistance and services to USAID to raise the quality of student learning by improving teacher and school performance and increasing the level and quality of community involvement in basic education. EQUIP1 addresses all levels of education, from early childhood development and school readiness to primary and secondary education, adult basic education, pre-vocational training, and the provision of life skills.”  EQUIP1 Contract

Clearly they are able to handle the complexities of education as it relates to skill development for the purposes of future employment. Again, this sounds great on the surface until you evaluate the desire for businesses to have “human capitol” that meets their exact employment needs.  Businesses could save a great deal of money if they were privy to student data that would allow them to hand pick whom would be best for their business.  They would know before a student ever applied for work with them whether that child would one day fit their business model.  There are many things wrong with this approach not the least of which is the statement above that they help with readiness for “basic education and pre-vocational training.  Shouldn’t a child choose what they want to do in life free from these parameters?  You got to decide what you wanted to be when you grew up.  Should we not afford our children the same opportunity free from invasive testing and corporate interference?  Should they not get to choose how far they want to take their education, or will the test decide for them and tell them what they get to do? Computer Adaptive Testing is wrong for Utah’s children and should be immediately defunded.  There is no place in our free society for this kind of invasion into a child’s psyche.

Carie Valentine

Utah Never Left the SBAC

Last year we successfully got the Utah State Board of Education to get us out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (a hollow victory). The SBAC is one of 2 federally funded assessment consortia meant to test Common Core students, and through its grant application push states onto Common Core. Utah signed onto SBAC in our Race to the Top application and became one of 17 governing member states. When the state board voted to exit SBAC last year, the state office of education was quite upset. From inside the USOE, we received a tip that they were writing a new Request for Proposal (RFP) for an assessment partner in such a way that only an SBAC partner entity could be chosen for our new assessment partner. We published this on this website and were told that was ridiculous by a couple state board members. In January of 2013, the USOE announced they had selected AIR (American Institutes of Research) as our new assessment partner. AIR is the official partner of SBAC. AIR has a subversive agenda and fits well with the SBAC who is led by Bill Ayers’ friend Linda-Darling Hammond, an advocate for teaching social justice in the classroom, and one who has a very poor track record for success in actual education outcomes. The State Superintendent said of the 13 or so applicants for our assessment program, AIR was the “only organization” that met all our requirements (in spite of the fact that at the legislative hearing in January where this was announced, there was already another computer adaptive test organization being piloted in Utah that was doing the job). The SBAC just released sample Common Core tests online. Here is what you are greeted with when you begin the test. AIR is indistinguishable from SBAC. Utah never left the SBAC except to exit a direct relationship status as a governing consortia member. We encourage you to contact your legislators and tell them to get us out of the SBAC and all its affiliates. Defund the $39 million contract the state office signed us onto.

AIR is SBAC

A Reply to Superintendent Menlove

The State Superintendent recently responded to someone who had concerns about Common Core with this email:

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Mrs. ______,

I understand you and others do not like Common Core.

Can you help me understand what you think our standards should be.  Should we have standards?  Do you think our standards should align with tests our children will take to determine college entrance and scholarship opportunities?  Do you think our standards should align with what the Utah System of Higher Education has determined our student need to be successful in college in Utah?   Which specific standards would you eliminate or change?  What standards are missing and need to be added?

I invite you and others concerned with Common Core to be part of the solution.

Martell Menlove

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I’d like to respond to the Superintendent line by line to make sure I address each of these points.

Dr. Menlove,

>I understand you and others do not like Common Core.

Good start establishing common ground.

>Can you help me understand what you think our standards should be.

Certainly. They should be strong standards on par with what the best states in the country were using before Common Core. In fact, our Utah 2007 math standards were better than Common Core so I’d suggest we return to those or else consider using CA’s, MA’s, or IN’s pre-Common Core math standards which have been recognized as exceeding Common Core. Our Utah ELA standards weren’t great according to the Fordham Foundation, but Massachusetts had some great standards that Sandra Stotsky helped create. Did you know she volunteered to come to Utah for free and help us write the best standards in the country with the help and input of Utah teachers? That’s what I’d suggest we do for ELA. This combo would give Utah children a real advantage and we would actually have a Utah core that wasn’t a relabeling of Common Core.

>Should we have standards?

Is this meant to be thought-provoking or just an expression of frustration that a growing segment of the public is feeling disenfranchised and complaining to our public education leaders? Standards are important. Standardizing all students on the same standards at the same pace is destructive. If you’d like more information on this, please watch Sir Ken Robinson’s just released TED video on the problems of No Child Left Behind.

>Do you think our standards should align with tests our children will take to determine college entrance and scholarship opportunities?

What was wrong with the ACT, SAT and AP exams before they were being aligned(ACT, SAT and AP) to Common Core? Nobody complained about them not being aligned to our standards. Why start now? It just becomes a graduation test instead of a test of broader knowledge. If a student graduates from high school and gets A’s on their Common Core aligned computer adaptive tests, why do we even need the ACT, SAT, and AP exams? They’d be redundant and make students sit through the same exam content questions.

>Do you think our standards should align with what the Utah System of Higher Education has determined our student need to be successful in college in Utah?

To my knowledge, the USHE didn’t participate in the creation of Common Core. However, USHE professors did participate in the creation of our 2007 math standards. Why are you rejecting the work they did on the 2007 math standards in favor of what out-of-state special interests created in order to profit their companies?

>Which specific standards would you eliminate or change?

I’m hoping you can see the wisdom of not picking flecks of manure from chocolate chip cookies. The batch is tainted and it’s time for a batch made from fresh ingredients.

>What standards are missing and need to be added?

Dr. Menlove, what standards were missing in our 2007 math standards that needed to be added? Perhaps it was the ones the external reviewer Dr. Hung-Hsi Wu from Berkeley said needed to be modified that the USOE refused to fix to give us A rated standards. Still, we wound up with A- rated standards that the Fordham Foundation said are actually clearer than Common Core. So why did we need to change? Oh yeah, the feds offered us money if we’d switch and then didn’t give us any money when we complied. I guess that’s what happens when you gamble with the dealer…

>I invite you and others concerned with Common Core to be part of the solution.

We’ve actually given you a solution. Why do you resist higher standards for Utah children? Aren’t our children deserving of the very best education? With the rest of the country following mediocre standards, why do you not want Utah children to have the advantage of a better education? Why do you not listen to your constituents solutions? Wasn’t the state board who appointed you, also elected as watchdogs for the public? Why don’t they listen to the public? With 65.5% of GOP state delegates getting informed about Common Core and rejecting it, what is your plan to listen to the people and act on their solutions? Why is your solution for the public to just accept whatever you and the USOE decide is best for our children? That’s not an acceptable solution from a public servant.

Oak Norton

 

Scandal in the USOE?

Utah State Office of Education

Dr. David Wright at BYU has posted information on a website (http://utahmath.org) alleging what appears to be shocking events inside the Utah State Office of Education and reaching into multiple Utah universities.

In the 2012 legislative session, a Math Materials Access Improvement Grant was passed (SB 217) which required the State Board of Education to select a content developer to develop new math textbooks for 7th and 8th graders, and an adaptive assessment program. The state office wrote the Request for Proposal (RFP) differently than the grant directed. Two proposals were submitted, one from Dr. Jeffrey Humpherys and the BYU math department, and one from Dr. Hugo Rossi at the University of Utah.

According to Dr. Wright’s documentation, there were irregularities in the U of U application including plagiarism of content and missing items that should have been included per the RFP. At least 4 USOE employees were aware of the plagiarism: Diana Suddreth, Brenda Hales, Sydnee Dickson, and Michael Rigby (who apparently found the plagiarism). Both Suddreth and Dickson were on the review committee to select a grant winner. Emails show Diana Suddreth dismissed this saying,

“It also appears that the U is unaware of the copyright violations since they pulled their materials from sources that were labeled as licensed under Creative Commons. Therefore, I do not think this invalidates their proposal.”

Two weeks later the USOE awarded the grant to the U of U and two days after awarding them the grant, Diana wrote Dr. Rossi stating,

“Before you dive in too quickly, we need to have a conversation on why the request for a response about plagiarism was required.”

Clearly people at the USOE knew plagiarism was a problem. In fact, in some circles, individuals would say this type of charge results in “academic death.”

Several other important factors also came up. During the review of the grants, Suddreth informed Rossi that he should add Dr. David Wiley in BYU’s education department to the grant. Suddreth was a co-principal investigator with Wiley on another sizeable grant.

During the RFP review, Rossi offered an honorarium to Suddreth on a project he was working on. In an email he states,

“All your expenses in connection with this project will be covered by the USHE, including an honorarium of $300/day for participation in the meetings, if you are able to accept such an honorarium given your professional role.”

This offer seems highly inappropriate given that Suddreth would evaluate the RFP’s and participate in awarding the grant.

Dr. James Cangelosi at Utah State was one of the 5 grant reviewers, and on the same day the grant was awarded to the U of U, Suddreth was able to secure another $70,000 for Cangelosi’s UMEP program at USU. That has a tainted smell to it.

Is it any surprise that on May 1st of this year, Tami Pyfer on the State Board of Education sent letters of Common Core support from Dr. Rossi and Dr. Cangelosi to state legislators? These two professors are in the back pocket of the USOE after having received hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants and apparent favoritism.

In Cangelosi’s letter to legislators, he concludes by emphasizing “Utah’s Mathematics Common Core is another in our string of efforts to supplant ‘schoolmath’ with research-based mathematical pedagogy.” He’s flat out wrong. He’s one of the top constructivists in the state and he’s misinterpreted the standards to be a call for pedagogical reform in the direction of constructivism.

Bill McCallum, one of the lead authors of Common Core math standards, was specifically asked about this misinterpretation of pedagogy some are espousing and stated,

I don’t see the standards as dictating any particular teaching method, but rather setting goals for student understanding. Different people have different ideas about what is the best method for achieving that understanding. That said, I think it’s pretty clear that classrooms implementing the standards should have some way of fostering understanding and reasoning, and classrooms where students are just sitting and listening are unlikely to achieve that.”

Dr. Wright has links to all the documents on his website (http://utahmath.org/) and concludes with 6 questions that the public deserves answers to.

1. Were any of the reviewers of the grant proposal conflicted? Were all of them qualified to review mathematics?
2. Did the U of U proposal contain plagiarized material?
3. Did Diana Suddreth direct the U of U to pick a principal investigator who was a co-principal investigator on a grant with Suddreth?
4. Did the sample lesson for the U of U contain “any text” (i.e., content exposition for the students) which was a requirement of the RFP?
5. Did the U of U grant proposal address “adaptive assessment” from the standard public education definition?
6. Did Hugo Rossi offer an honorarium to Diana Suddreth during the review period?

Each of those questions is hyperlinked to the relevant documents on Dr. Wright’s website (http://utahmath.org).

We expect public servants to use our tax dollars wisely. In this case, at a minimum, it would appear that the USOE violated the original instructions from the legislature. At the other extreme, they engaged in unethical and immoral behavior. The public deserves a full and thorough investigation to address these questions, perhaps in the education subcommittee of the legislature where the legislature can call on the USOE to account for their actions in going against the will of the legislature in the original grant.

I strongly encourage you to email State Superintendent Dr. Martell Menlove, point him to Dr. Wright’s website, and ask him to conduct a full and thorough public investigation of these questions. If true, everyone aware of the situation should be fired from the USOE, and all related parties outside the USOE who were involved in this should be forever banned from further grants and involvement with the state educational system.

Dr. Menlove can be emailed at Martell.Menlove@schools.utah.gov.

Please also copy your state school board member and legislators on that email as well. You can locate who your board member is and legislators at these urls.

http://le.utah.gov/GIS/findDistrict.jsp (find your legislators by your address)

http://www.schools.utah.gov/board/Board-Members/Find-Your-Board-Member.aspx (find your state board district here)

http://www.schools.utah.gov/board/Board-Members.aspx (look up your board member here)

You can also copy the 2 board of regents representatives on the state board to ensure they investigate and take action at the university level.

Teresa Theurer (teresatheurer1@gmail.com)

Marlin Jensen  (jensenmk@ldschurch.org)

 

Orem Common Core Presentation by UACC

If you have not been able to attend one of the Common Core presentations put on by our group, we taped Saturday night’s presentation by Renee Braddy, Alisa Ellis, and Christel Swasey. It’s just under 1 hour in length and gives a fantastic overview of the true Common Core agenda. Watch full screen for HD resolution.

AIR Servers Crash Preventing MN from Testing Students

Uh-oh, don’t look now Utah, but our $39 million contract with AIR (http://www.deseretnews.com/article/765628026/Utah-Common-Core-testing-fraught-with-flaws.html) to do computer adaptive testing on our students just hit a snag. In spite of the fact the USOE told the legislature that AIR was the ONLY VENDOR FULLY PREPARED to handle the computer adaptive testing for Utah schools, it appears that assessment was short-lived and shortsighted.

From the Pioneer Press Twin Cities news comes this article, “Computer crash derails math assessment exams for Minnesota students.”

http://www.twincities.com/ci_23037427/minnesota-students-math-test-halted-after-computer-problems

Thousands of students across Minnesota could not take the online state math assessment they spent much of the school year preparing for because of a technology failure Tuesday, April 16.

A computer problem at testing contractor American Institutes of Research, or AIR, prevented students from beginning or completing the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments online, said Charlene Briner, chief of staff for the Minnesota Department of Education.

“It is unfortunate, and it is unacceptable to us,” said Briner, who said the problem was with AIR, the state’s vendor, and not “school infrastructure.”

Jon Cohen, director of assessment for AIR, said servers that process tests experienced two “slowdowns” Tuesday morning as 15,000 students tried to access the system.

Evelyn Belton-Kocher, director of testing, research and assessment for St. Paul, said the difficulties are an example of online testing’s challenges.

“If you don’t have a highly-reliable system, you put a lot more stress on your most vulnerable kids,” Belton-Kocher said. “It’s not a level playing field.”

Robert Schaeffer, spokesman for the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, said the problems Minnesota students and teachers experienced are common when states try to administer standardized test online on a large scale. States have seen repeated problems with programming, infrastructure and the capacity of systems used to administer the tests.

“The assumption is the technology is infallible,” Shaeffer said, adding that contractors make performance promises they can’t keep. “You shouldn’t contract based on promises. You should contract, especially with taxpayer money, based on performance.”

Lets see…15,000 students access the assessments and crash the servers. I think I have to agree with Shaeffer. Utah shouldn’t contract based on promises but based on performance.

If you don’t know much about AIR, they are the official partner of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium which legislators helped pressure the state school board and USOE to drop all affiliations with. If you don’t know much about AIR, please check out these two articles.

This article by Alpine School District board member Brian Halladay, briefly summarizes hours of research on AIR and SAGE and how they are involved in testing behavior, not education.

This article by Tiffany Mouritsen exposes the extreme agenda that AIR supports and has written extensively about on their website including social justice and LGBT. Why can’t Utah find an assessment partner to support that doesn’t spend money on tearing down the moral fabric of society that we value?

Setting the record straight – a rebuttal to Joel Coleman’s post

[Quick note by Oak Norton: Before presenting Lisa Cummin’s rebuttal to State School Board Member Joel Coleman’s article, I wanted to comment that Joel and I have known each other for some time. He’s well aware of my efforts with others in 2007 to raise Utah’s math standards and the success we had going from D rated standards to an A- (according to the Fordham Foundation ratings). For Joel to publish that opponents of Common Core are “people who don’t want any standards at all” is a shocking misrepresentation. I cannot understand how he could possibly make this statement when he knows we have always been for stronger statements and considered the Common Core standards mediocre. He knows better and should immediately apologize for this clear misrepresentation. Please read Lisa Cummin’s excellent response below.]

Originally posted at: http://pcandg.com/setting-the-record-straight-a-rebuttal-to-joel-colemans-post/

Yesterday, Utah State School Board member, Joel Coleman, wrote a blog post about the Common Core Standards and where he thinks the mis-understandings lie.

In his opening paragraph he says: “it has become increasingly apparent to me that some of the strongest opponents of Utah’s core standards are people who don’t want any standards at all. Some of them have children that don’t even attend public schools, and therefore are not subject to the standards we are required to implement, anyway.”

Joel, allow me to correct you. We do want standards. We have standards, both in the religious aspects of our lives as well as in our homes with our children. It’s how we know we are progressing towards our goals. In the 1828 Noah Webster’s dictionary definition #3 for “standard” states: “That which is established as a rule or model, by the authority of public opinion, or by respectable opinions, or by custom or general consent; as writings which are admitted to be the standard of style and taste. Homer’s Illiad is the standard of heroic poetry. Demosthenes and Cicero are standards of oratory. Of modern eloquence, we have an excellent stand in the speeches of Lord Chatham. Addison’s writings furnish a good standard of pure, chaste and elegant English style. It is not an easy thing to erect a standard of taste.”

Standards define a moral and chaste people; of course we want standards. Do not attempt to belittle us to the public on this.

It is true that some of us have pulled our children out of public and charter schools. That is our right, as parents to do so and should not be looked down upon. But there are two other points that Joel neglects to mention. Speaking for myself, I pulled my children out of public school because of Common Core, as a whole, not just the standards. I am not a standards expert. However, I have been taught that you don’t phase out the classics as you get older, you must encourage others to read them more! I also know that introducing classics as abridged or in parts, is not teaching the classics, it’s taking out the most important details that builds the emotion or passion of the story. Both points which David Coleman, noted author of the ELA standards and current President of the College Board, absolutely abhors and find unnecessary for learning. Dr. Sandra Stotsky (a standards expert) would not sign off on the English Language Standards because they do not meet college and university level required reading. Phasing them out to 30%, in 12th grade is horrible to the development of children, even through their teen years!

The second note is that we as homeschoolers will be subject to the “standards” as homeschool publishing companies are aligning their curriculum with the standards (including Saxon and Singapore Math, Excellence in Writing and others), as well as the college entrance exams will most likely provide low scores from our children’s testing. So again, please don’t belittle the effect it will have on homeschooling.

In Joel’s comments, he stated that the Common Core Standards were required by law to be adopted which, is simply not true. In fact you can hear the audio of the Board, on August 6th 2010, saying that they are the ones adopting the Common Core, not the State legislature. State legislatures were not involved with the Standards themselves and in fact didn’t become involved until they started passing laws regarding grading of schools, computer adaptive testing, data collecting, and anything else involving exchange of monies. Now No Child Left Behind is a law, but that is a Federal law, not a state.

Mr. Coleman mentions that the explanations in his post where sent to him; that he is not the original author, I’d like to know his sources, as these should be transparent.

Continuing from his post we find: “The purpose of Utah’s core standards is not to drive everyone to achieve the same specific goals for each student, or for them to achieve at the same pace. It is not designed to promote sameness.” Question: If the students don’t achieve the goal of the teacher, school district or State Board, who fails? According to current law, SB 271, it is the teacher and eventually the school.

In continuing my research, I found Senator Neiderhauser’s, current sitting President of the Senate, blog post on “The Senate Site” B 59 will change that definition so that a school’s grade is based on more tangible benchmarks.”

SB271 is the Amended portion to SB59.

It is based on tangible benchmarks or standards. It is a system of one size fits all, or the teachers and the schools will fail. They are tied together. Bad standards will lead to bad assessments. Bad assessments will drive bad curriculum. Bad curriculum will drive the students to test below college and university levels, which mean the teachers and the schools will receive an “F” or worse. This is not just about standards. The picture is much bigger than that, and the State knows it.

Mr. Colman shared his blog post on his Facebook page, and I found Senator Moss’s response rather interesting:

“Carol Spackman Moss: Thank you for the post, Joel. You are exactly right! The CCSS do not limit students, they set standards that allow students and teachers to have some idea what they should aiming for. It doesn’t set curriculum or teaching style. I’m frustrated with the fear mongering and the insistence by some that these standards will have deleterious effects on our students. Why are some folks fearful of more rigor? If we want our students to be able to compete with students all over the world, we need to raise the bar. Thanks for taking the time to educate and inform. (Your friend and high school English teacher).”

As I speak to various people about Common Core and describe the whole picture, I am amazed that our meetings are much calmer, than those that the State hosts. We lay out what we have found, including original sources. I asked in that same Facebook thread where the evidence that these standards are rigorous was. Where is their research? Post it! Who conducted the research? Who participated? My friends and I have yet to receive an answer to these questions. What we can show you is that they haven’t done the research. We can show you the timeline, and how it was time- sensitive and money driven.

These standards are nothing wonderful! Otherwise there wouldn’t be so much opposition to them nation wide!