Yesterday the Utah State Board of Education made a presentation to some Utah legislators entitled “Common Core and the Utah Education Transformation Plan”. A small group of concerned parents compiled these questions and facts in response to their slides.
This post is reprinted with permission from Wendy Hart from her blog entry at:
This video contains actual audio from the beginning of the Common Core standards discussion in Utah. Having listened to these meetings, I wanted to make sure some key points were readily accessible and available to everyone.
As human beings, sometimes it’s helpful to go back to original sources instead of listening to talking points. This information on the Common Core process is invaluable in providing insight from those who were there at the time. What was their perspective, and what was their focus?
Please take a few minutes to watch and to understand what was being said about Common Core from the very beginning, not the least of which was the Utah State Board Agenda Item: “National Common Standards”. Contrast this to the Utah State Office of Ed flyer which states: “Fiction: Utah adopted nationalized education standards that come with federal strings attached.” Then ask these questions:
What was the overriding reason for Utah joining in with a group that was developing national, common standards?
Was there any federal involvement, real or implied, that motivated the jump into Common Core?
With all the public involvement, who do you know who was involved in vetting the Common Core standards?
The answers you get may be different from what you are being told.
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.
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?
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.
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:
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.
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.
•…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.
Nobody has to choose between relying on the proponents of Common Core, or relying on the opponents of Common Core.
To find out what Common Core really is and does to education and to liberty, study for yourself.
These are just a starter batch. There are more! Some of these are Utah-specific. If you are in another state, do a related word search to easily find your own.
The copyright on Common Core held by CCSSO/NGA
The report entitled “For Each And Every Child” from the Equity and Excellence Commission
The Cooperative Agreements between the Dept. of Education and the testing consortia
The speeches of Secretary Arne Duncan on education
The speeches of President Obama on education
The speeches of the CEA of Pearson Ed, Sir Michael Barber
The speeches of the main funder of Common Core, Bill Gates
The speeches of David Coleman, a noneducator, the architect of the Common Core ELA standards and now promoted to College Board President
The federal websites such as the EdFacts Exchange, the Common Education Data Standards, the National Data Collection Model, and the Data Quality Campaign, sites because three of these four ask us to give personally identifiable information on students, from our state database.
The Common Core English and Math standards
Here are some explanations of each of the documents, and what you can learn from them.
The No Child Left Behind Waiver – This shows the 15% cap the federal government put on top of the copyrighted, unamendable Common Core standards.
The State Longitudinal Database System Grant – This is a federally paid-for database that every state in the US now has. It tracks students within the state. Aggregated data ion students is sent from this system to the federal EdFacts Exchange.
The lawsuit against the Department of Education – The Electronic Privacy Information Center has sued the DOE for destroying the previously data-privacy protective federal FERPA. The lawsuit explains which terms were redefined, which agencies now have legal access to the private data of students, and much more.
The report entitled “For Each And Every Child” from the Equity and Excellence Commission – This report was commissioned by Obama. It reveals that redistribution of wealth is the real reason that Obama wants a national education system.
The Cooperative Agreements between the Dept. of Education and the testing consortia – Even though Utah escaped the SBAC and is not bound by the Cooperative Agreement directly, Utah’s current testing group, A.I.R., works closely with SBAC. This document shows how clearly the DOE has broken laws like the General Educational Provisions Act and the 10th Amendment. It mandates the synchronizing of tests and the sharing of data to triangulate the SBAC, PARCC and DOE.
The speeches of Secretary Arne Duncan on education – He seems to believe Common Core was Obama’s idea from the start.
The speeches of President Obama on education – Obama’s goal is total control of everything– teachers, tests, money, and toddlers.
The speeches of the CEA of Pearson Ed, Sir Michael Barber – Barber wants every school on the globe to have the exact same academic standards and to underpin every standard with environmental propaganda. He also likes having global data on kids and stresses the term “sustainable reform” which is “irreversible reform”.
The speeches of the main funder of Common Core, Bill Gates – He’s funded Common Core almost completely on his own; he’s partnered with Pearson; he says “we won’t know it works until all the tests and curriculum aligns with the standards” so he’s writing curriculum for us all.
The speeches of David Coleman, a noneducator, the architect of the Common Core ELA standards and now promoted to College Board President –He mocks narrative writing, he’s diminished the percentage of classic literature that’s allowable in the standards, he’s not been elected, he’s never taught school, yet he’s almost singlehandedly destroyed the quality and liberty of an English teacher’s classroom. And as he’s now the College Board President, he’s aligning the SAT to his version of what Common standards should be. This will hurt colleges.
The Dept. of Ed report: Promoting Grit, Tenacity and Perserverance – behavioral indicators of students are wanted by the federal government. It’s all about control.
The federal websites such as the EdFacts Exchange, the Common Education Data Standards, the National Data Collection Model, and the Data Quality Campaign, sites because three of these four ask us to give personally identifiable information on students, from our state database. -The first link shows what we already give to the federal government; the others show what the federal government is requesting that we share, which does include intimate, personally identifiable information.
The Common Core English and Math standards – These are the actual standards.
The full contract that Utah has signed with the American Institutes for Research (if you can get a copy from the USOE; it is not online yet). Here is AIR’s common core implementation document. – This shows that AIR is not an academic testing group but a behavioral research institute. Parents and teachers may not see the test questions.
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.
The State Superintendent recently responded to someone who had concerns about Common Core with this email:
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.
I’d like to respond to the Superintendent line by line to make sure I address each of these points.
>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.
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Marlin Jensen (email@example.com)
First, a teacher comment we received this week:
“It just seems like a lose-lose all the way around.
It may interest you to know that all of us math teachers got an e-mail from Diana Suddreth (state math curriculum rep) about the attack that cc has come under in our state government. The e-mail was saying how concerned she was that the state reps are starting to listen to the parents and was asking for teachers state-wide to start speaking up for the core and defend it to our reps to let them know how great it is.
We here at ____________ got that e-mail and laughed out loud because it would seem a little funny to defend it when we’re on the side of the parents…
We have a storage room full of old Alg, Alg2, and Geometry textbooks that sit no longer in use because of cc.”
I want to be very clear about something right from the start. The anti-Common Core movement is not just about the standards. It’s about the entire nationalization/globalization agenda that goes along with it. However, this article serves to show the weakness of the Common Core math standards themselves and what it means for Utah students.
In 2007, Utah adopted new standards which were rated an A- by the Fordham Foundation. This was a big improvement over our prior standards which Fordham rated a D. They later rated the Common Core math standards an A- after receiving several hundred thousand dollars from the Gates Foundation to do a review. Money talks. The Gates Foundation is very interested in getting everyone on these standards, and so is the federal government. If you don’t know the connections, watch this video. In their analysis comparing Utah’s math standards and Common Core, they stated:
The Bottom Line
With some minor differences, Common Core and Utah both cover the essential content for a rigorous, K-12 mathematics program. Utah’s standards are briefly stated and usually clear, making them easier to read and follow than Common Core. In addition, the high school content is organized so that standards addressing specific topics, such as quadratic functions, are grouped together in a mathematically coherent way. The organization of the Common Core is more difficult to navigate, in part because standards dealing with related topics sometimes appear separately rather than together.
The chief weakness in Utah’s standards stems from the lack of specific content expectations in the development of arithmetic, and in the failure to make arithmetic a focus in the appropriate grades. Common Core provides admirable focus and explicitly requires standard methods and procedures, enhancements that would benefit Utah’s standards.
In other words, our 2007 standards were pretty good and could have used a little tweaking to make them stronger. If the USOE had actually implemented the external reviewer’s suggestions, we would probably have had some of the very best standards in America. Dr. Hung-Hsi Wu, math professor at Berkeley and Utah’s external reviewer of the 2007 standards, was shocked months after reviewing the final draft of our standards, that the USOE had failed to implement any of his recommendations. Commenting to the USOE he wrote:
“Nicole [Paulson at the USOE], Thank you for your courteous note. I can understand your consternation upon reading the quote in Jim Milgam’s letter of my reaction to the revised standards (incidentally, he quoted me correctly), but if you realize that I had taken for granted that most of what I recommended would be implemented, then you would also understand why I was so shocked when I was reluctantly made to read the revision.”
What followed was a list of several critical items that should have been included but the USOE left out. Why did they leave them out? It’s unknown for certain, but it is known that they hated the fact that we succeeded in making them raise Utah’s then D-rated standards. Standards are not a priority for the USOE, getting federal money was the driving incentive for applying for Race to the Top money where we agreed to adopt new untested Common Core standards, sight-unseen.
Dr. David Wright in the math department at BYU, was one of the few mathematicians that worked on the Utah 2007 math standards. I recently corresponded with him comparing where Utah was at with those standards, and where we are now with Common Core.
Under the 2007 standards, most students would take the following schedule of classes:
7th grade: pre-algebra
8th grade: algebra 1
9th grade: geometry
10th grade: algebra 2
11th grade: pre-calculus
12th grade: calculus
Some students who are well prepared could take algebra in 7th grade allowing them to accelerate. Some students, myself included when I was younger, double up and take geometry and algebra 2 together in order to accelerate. That option is no longer possible under the new integrated approach to Common Core.
Under the new Common Core standards, students get an integrated approach to math meaning there are no longer discrete years of math, but a blend of subject matter.
Math 7 (7th grade): contains some pre-algebra/algebra
Math 8 (8th grade): contains some algebra
Secondary Math 1 (9th grade): Finish some of algebra 1 and some geometry
Secondary Math 2 (10th grade): Finish algebra 1 and some Geometry and some algebra 2
Secondary Math 3 (11th grade): Finish algebra 2, geometry and some Pre-Calculus
AP Calculus: It is the hope of the USOE that students will be prepared for AP calculus without a year of pre-calculus. In reality, many students will struggle without precalculus.
According to Dr. Wright: “If you are not in honors Math 1 by ninth grade, the USOE does not see you prepared for calculus. Many students who take the honors Math 1, Math 2, and Math 3 would still be better off in pre-calculus instead of calculus because their algebra skills will not be good enough.”
Some students will be able to take Math 1 in 8th grade, if they accelerated early, but for most students they will either have to skip pre-calculus to take calculus in 12th grade, or take pre-calculus in 12th grade and wait till college for an authentic calculus course. Honors students get a little more content depth but no real acceleration to advance faster.
The problems of Common Core math in Utah are two-fold.
1) In spite of the Gates influenced Fordham grade of A-, Common Core sets the United States back from where we should be. The Common Core proponents used to tout how the standards were internationally benchmarked. That’s been proven false and those statements removed. Dr. Jim Milgram, Stanford math professor and the only professional mathematician on the validation committee, has written standards and worked with international standards for many years. Here are a couple of comments from him:
“The Common Core standards claim to be ‘benchmarked against the international standards’ but this phrase is meaningless. They are actually two or more years behind international expectations by eighth grade, and only fall further behind as they talk about grades 8-12. Indeed, they don’t even fully cover the material in a solid geometry course, or in the second year algebra course.”
“While the difference between these standards and those of the top states at the end of eighth grade is perhaps somewhat more than one year, the difference is more like two years when compared to the expectations of the high-achieving countries — particularly most of the nations of East Asia.”
2) The USOE is constructivist oriented. They told Utahns that we would have portability of students with other states as a feature of Common Core, but then adopted a different schedule of learning which will not allow for it. They did this to implement constructivist math across the state. Trainings by the USOE for teachers have included the nonsense that students don’t need to learn their times tables. Good teachers will ignore that, but the fact is, the USOE actively looks to promote this philosophy in their teacher training.
USOE constructivist curriculum on video: which do you want for your child?
The bottom line is, Common Core math is not internationally benchmarked, not going to prepare as many children for an authentic calculus class by the end of high school as our 2007 standards would, not allow for portability of students with other states because only Vermont adopted the integrated method with Utah, and the push for constructivism will further damage our children’s math skills and thinking. The best thing Utah could do is immediately go back to our 2007 standards, and implement the changes suggested by Dr. Wu, the external reviewer. Readopting those standards would be superior to Common Core and they would be honest Utah math standards.
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.