Tag Archives: USOE

GRAMA Request Filed on Superintendent Selection

On Monday, November 5th, the below GRAMA request was filed with the legal department of the Utah State Office of Education. The USOE just posted the audio of the interviews with the State Superintendent candidates. You can listen to all 3 by clicking these links.

Dr. Menlove

Dr. Hudnall

Dr. Sentance


USOE Records Officer
Utah State Office of Education
P.O. Box 144200
250 East 500 South
Salt Lake City, Utah 84114-42200

5 November 2012

Dear USOE Records Officer,

Pursuant to Utah’s Government Records and Management Act, I am requesting the following records:

•    All email and all other correspondence to or from any member of the Utah State Board of Education, Superintendent Larry Shumway, Martel Menlove, and/or Judy Park regarding the selection/appointment of a new superintendent, the process and/or criteria for selecting or appointing a new superintendent, the reasons for selecting/appointing Martel Menlove, and/or the reasons for not selecting/appointing other people as superintendent, between the dates of June 1, 2012 and October 31, 2012.
•    All email and all other correspondence regarding Michael (Mike) Sentence, Greg Hudnall, or Martel Menlove, between the dates of June 1, 2012 and October 31, 2012.
•    All records relating to the criteria or process (either proposed, considered, or actually used) for selecting or appointing a superintendent to replace Superintendent Larry Shumway, the reasons for selecting/appointing Martel Menlove, and/or the reasons for not selecting/supporting other people as superintendent.

UCA  63G-2-203 (4) encourages agencies to fulfill a records request without charge. Based on UCA 63G-2-203 (4), I am requesting a waiver of copy costs because releasing the record primarily benefits the public rather than a person.

I believe that the public has a right to examine all the correspondence between State Board members and USOE officials regarding the process of selection and anything that was not transparent to the public throughout that selection process.

The selection of a new superintendent, who oversees the education of Utah’s children and the expenditure of a large amount of public funds is of great interest to the public. Further, in observing the streamed meeting where interviews were conducted, it appears that the person selected was not the top candidate for the position. It is in the public interest to know the grounds upon which the selection was actually made in order to verify that the person was selected for reasons that the public would support.
I recognize that you will respond within 5 business days, however, I am requesting an expedited response as permitted by UCA 63G-2-204 (3)(b).


Oak Norton

State Preschool Should be Vigorously Opposed

God’s plan of happiness for mankind is centered in the family. The family is the place where moral values are passed from parent to child and where the true education of children takes place. There is no substitute for a loving home. It is among the highest crimes to work toward or allow the destruction of the relationship between parent and child.

There is no question that we live in times in which the family is under assault. There is a definite agenda to get children away from their families at younger ages and for more time in the day so that the influence of a mother and father is diminished in the lives of their children.

Prominent educators and politicians illustrate this disdain for families in this way:

“Most youth still hold the same values of their parents…if we do not alter this pattern, if we don’t resocializeour system will decay.” -John Goodlad (1)

[schools] should liberate students from the ways of thinking imposed by religions and other traditions of thought.” -John Goodlad (2)

Public education has served as a check on the power of parents, and this is another powerful reason for maintaining it.” – John Goodlad (3)

Every child in America entering school at the age of five is insane because he comes to school with certain allegiances to our founding fathers, toward our elected officials, toward his parents, toward a belief in a supernatural being, and toward the sovereignty of this nation as a separate entity. It’s up to you as teachers to make all these sick children well – by creating the international child of the future.” -Dr. Chester M. Pierce, Harvard Professor of Education and Psychiatry (4)

Age 5 is too late according to Dr. Pierce. The goal is to separate children from parents as early as possible so the parents are no longer the primary driver of values for a child. If children can bond with teachers and peers at early ages, there is less chance they will ever acquire their parents’ values, especially since Judeo-Christian values and beliefs can’t be raised in Government funded schools.

Linda Darling-Hammond, author of Teaching for Social Justice in the Classroom, and someone recommended by Bill Ayers to President Obama for his Secretary of Education post, wrote:

“If the promise of the Obama education agenda is realized, in 2016 we could see a nation in which all children have access to the health care, housing, and high-quality preschool experience.

Preschool gets as much prominence as socialized medicine and housing? That’s pretty telling of these people’s priorities. Get children early.

Why is the Utah State Office of Education so interested in getting legislators like Senator Aaron Osmond to sponsor state funded preschool bills? Even to the point of making ridiculous generalized claims that for every dollar spent on preschool, the state gets seven back.

Could it be because there is another golden carrot being dangled in front of us in the Federal Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge grant? States that “are leading the way with ambitious yet achievable plans for implementing coherent, compelling, and comprehensive early learning education reform” appear to have a shot at yet more federal funding.

Could it be because the Federal Secretary of Education indicated there was a preference for obtaining Race to the Top (RTTT) funds for those states that implement early education initiatives?

Notice how the feds use us over and over again?

In Utah’s RTTT application we committed to this expansion of early learning.

Project Five: Improving Early Learning Outcomes (supports Invitational Priority 3: Innovations for Improving Early Learning Outcomes)

Utah will:

  • · Maintain and expand full-day kindergarten to eligible students and use data to identify and replicate high-performing projects and practices; and
  • · Support early intervention programs for high-need Pre-Kindergarten (Pre-K) children by reviewing data and reports from the Utah Preparing Students Today for a Rewarding Tomorrow (UPSTART), Early Learning Initiative (a Waterford Institute Project for in-home, computer-based preparation for school success), CTE sponsored preschools, and other state preschool programs.

Rationale: The foundation for success in reading and mathematics begins before kindergarten. This is especially true for economically disadvantaged students, English language learners, and students with disabilities. We have learned from our optional extended-day kindergarten initiative, that early intervention at the preschool level is essential to narrowing achievement gaps.

Early learning initiatives are also embedded in the CCSSO’s (Council of Chief State Superintendents Organization) “ROADMAP for NEXT-GENERATION STATE ACCOUNTABILITY SYSTEMS

“Early learning accountability – holds programs geared towards ensuring that students enter kindergarten ready to learn accountable for results.” …

Expand the scope of diagnostic reviews to encompass the examination of early learning opportunities and other community-based supports for student achievement and attainment. These efforts could encompass gathering information on the proportion of young children who are participating in high quality early childhood programs, the prevalence of family engagement and education programs for parents of young children, and the extent to which elementary schools have built partnerships with early learning and child care programs to align standards, curricula, assessment and professional development efforts from early childhood through grade 3.”…

Consider more far-reaching and fundamental efforts to enhance and mobilize communities, families, early education programs and other partners to complement the influence of school-based improvement initiatives. As stated earlier in this Roadmap, the Taskforce believes in the concept of shared accountability. While the focus of this Roadmap is on the school, district, and state role in improving student achievement, research tells us that families, communities, and other programs can have a large impact on student achievement. States may want to consider involving these entities as wrap-around supports for students, schools, and districts.”

Are you kidding me? Early childhood standards, curricula, assessment, and professional development???

The next-generation state accountability system mentioned above was implemented by Utah earlier this year. The state issued a press release that they had implemented a P-20W longitudinal database tracking system for our children? The “P” is for preschool, and the “W” is for workforce. This is the same old school-to-work tracking concept that has been around for years and is one of the reasons Common Core moves a significant emphasis from literature to informational texts to better prepare workers instead of independent thinkers. We’ve been had. Common Core was just the vehicle to get states on a massive school-to-work database and get state funded preschool started.

Another name for this is Outcome Based Education. It’s been actively implemented before in Nazi Germany for training children from very young ages to be independent of parents, and to be trained for the workforce. The goal is to allow the state central planners to indoctrinate youth as social servants with loyalty to country, instead of individuals who have the freedom to live as they choose and share in their parent’s Judeo-Christian values. They will serve the greater good by becoming what they are told they are fitted to be.

One example of this separation between parent and child is the constructivist approach to textbooks. In many cases there are no textbooks that a child can take home and let the parent help explain concepts that a child might not understand. In cases where there are textbooks, many times they do not have math problem examples or instruction in the books. The Utah State Office of Education (which is full of constructivists) produced such a textbook, and the Granite and Jordan School Districts did for students as well. These constructivist textbooks break down family relationships. They take away the ability of a parent to provide assistance with their child’s homework by refreshing their memory on how to do those problems. It sets up teachers as the people who are smarter than parents because they know how to do the problems, so parents lose credibility in the eyes of their children.

Why is Utah following this path? State funded preschool is a good intention found on the road to hell. It will start with those who are “at-risk” and some study will say it helped those children. Then studies will be promoted that say it was a success with those children and it will be even more successful if all kids are given the choice. Then it will be so successful that all children just need this preschool by state mandate. Think it won’t happen? Consider Sweden.

Sweden has gone down the slippery slope and now demands that parents turn over their children as young as 1 year old to state daycare, and forces private schools to teach the state curriculum as you can see in this video.

Here are some resources that Dr. Himmelstrand references:

1) Sweden implemented government funded day care and encouraged women to leave the home to work. 30 years later they have psychological issues in youth, decreased education results, discipline problems, high rates of sick leave especially among women, deteriorating parental abilities, and more. (slides or full paper)

2) Does Prekindergarten Improve School Preparation and Performance? A study by Katherine A. Magnuson, Christopher J. Ruhm, and Jane Waldfogel.

We find that prekindergarten increases reading and mathematics skills at school entry, but also increases behavioral problems and reduces self-control. Furthermore, the effects of prekindergarten on skills largely dissipate by the spring of first grade, although the behavioral effects do not.

3) Universal Childcare, Maternal Labor Supply, and Family Well-Being by Michael Baker, Jonathan Gruber, Kevin Milligan

Finally, we uncover striking evidence that children are worse off in a variety of behavioral and health dimensions, ranging from aggression to motor-social skills to illness. Our analysis also suggests that the new childcare program led to more hostile, less consistent parenting, worse parental health, and lower-quality parental relationships.

4) Findings from the Canadian Institute of Marriage and Family

For Dr. Neufeld, the capacity for healthy relationships is meant to unfold in the first six years of life. “It’s a very basic agenda,” he says. “By the fifth year of life if everything is continuous and safe then emotional intimacy begins. A child gives his heart to whomever he is attached to and that is an incredibly important part….The first issue is always to establish strong, deep emotional connections with those who are raising you. And that should be our emphasis in society. If we did this, we would send our children to school late, not early.

Other research concurs. In the books “Better Late Than Early” and “School Can Wait” by Raymond & Dorothy Moore, they show research illustrating significant problems with early education. The Moore’s research was highly endorsed as critical to healthy childhood development, and their evidence actually shows that children are better off emotionally and learn better when they are a little more mature and more fully bonded with parents.

A couple years ago I received an email from a teacher in Utah county who was very familiar with a pre-school pilot program being run in one of the school districts. Young children were being put on a bus in the dark hours of the morning and sent off to school. There wasn’t much learning going on because the children were so homesick the teachers spent a lot of time nurturing instead of teaching. They were supplanting the role of the parents.

Here’s a proposal. Utah has a funding issue. We say we want off the federal funds and strings. According to the USOE, about 12% of our education funding comes from the federal government. What if we dropped pre-school, kindergarten and first grade and start children at an older age as they do in Finland (which isn’t hurting for educational success). Removing these (and maybe even 2nd grade or cutting it to half a day for just basics) should knock out a significant portion (if not all) of the 12% of our state education budget that comes from the federal government and allow us to exit the federal string of bad ideas like NCLB and Common Core. Until children enter school, strongly encourage parents to read to their children and teach them basic things at home. A family focused on the education of their children will do more to emotionally and mentally prepare their children to learn at school than they will ever get in the first couple years of a public school. It’s not hard to learn what’s missed in early grades when a student is better prepared to learn.

In 1995, the LDS church issued an official document entitled the Proclamation on the Family. Although it’s never been canonized, we consider this document to have the weight of scripture as it came under the signatures of our church leadership (consisting of what we call the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles).  This document concludes:

We call upon responsible citizens and officers of government everywhere to promote those measures designed to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society.

Government sponsored preschool is just the next excuse for government to remove the influence of parents from their children at earlier ages before a child imprints the Judeo-Christian values of their parents. Lets not let this happen in Utah. We can’t afford adding another grade level to education, and we really can’t afford the further erosion of the family. I pray that responsible citizens and officers of government will find ways to protect and preserve the family as the fundamental unit of society, not secondary to compulsory education which is the largest social engineering experiment propagated on the family.




(1) Education Innovation, Issue 9, “Report of Task Force C: Strategies for Change,” Schooling for the Future, a report to the President’s Commission on Schools Finance, Issue #9, 1971.

(2) “Education and Community,” in Democracy, Education, and the Schools, Roger Stone, pg. 92.

(3) Developing Democratic Character in the Young, pg. 165

(4) Address to the Childhood International Education Seminar, 1973


USOE + Common Core = Death of Math

There is a very good reason that there are so many charter schools in Alpine School District that use Saxon math. Thousands of parents fled the district starting around 2001 when the district wouldn’t listen to them that Investigations math was a disaster. The district’s mantra was “all the studies show this is the best way to teach math” but when GRAMA requests were filed, they couldn’t produce a single peer-reviewed study, and in fact studies that do exist show constructivist math programs to be utter failures (link 1)(link 2) and those that support them intellectually dishonest. It took 7 years for ASD to drop the program while children were either supplemented, tutored, or unknowingly falling behind their peers. Common Core now gives the states the opportunity to make sure nobody falls behind their peers by dumbing all of them down at the same time.

Constructivism emphasizes group work, discovering math strategies for yourself instead of having tried and true standard algorithms given to you and learning why they work so well, and a lot of writing, all in the name of acquiring a “deeper understanding” of math. (Example of an epic fail in a BYU Calculus class taught by math education professors)

Jordan and Granite math specialists sent their new Secondary Math 1 textbook to the USOE which sent it out to others on June 4, 2012. The book is a recipe for disaster. It starts off like a self-help book of “I Can” statements for each chapter that students should read (and probably repeat over and over for 21 days to convince themselves they can be confident in their math skills).

“I Can” Statements

1.1 I can solve equations and inequalities.
1.2 I can justify steps in solving equations.
1.3 I can solve absolute-value equations and inequalities.
1.4 I can solve compound inequalities. I can use set and interval notation to describe
solutions to compound inequalities.

There are no math examples in the book for students to learn from. It’s all up to the teacher to teach so well that when a student goes home the parents don’t need to help them with their homework (thus de-emphasizing the role of parents in the lives of their children and making teachers out to be the smart ones children go to for learning as this article points out)

After many of the “math” problems in the book, you’ll find this set of writing and presentation instructions.

1. In your notebook, record your solutions. Explain your thinking with writing, pictures, equations, etc.
2. PRESENTATION of thinking and work: Be prepared to explain your group’s solution and the process
you used to arrive at the solution. Think about how to present your results so the class can see and
understand your work.
3. CRITIQUE and COMPARISON: Observe the other group presentations. In your notebook, write a
short critique; a) write specifically about what is good, b) write questions and suggestions, c) note
differences and similarities among presentations.

Here’s the very first problem in the book. Nothing like jumping in full force to teach children what they’re in for.

0.1 (task)—Lonely Groundhog
(Adapted from Interactive Mathematics Program)

Far, far away, in a land where grassy green hills abound, live small little creatures known as groundhogs. These groundhogs roam the land looking for their shadow to see when winter will end. Once winter is over they live in fancy houses that are decorated with the most beautiful shapes. Since groundhogs aren’t very creative, they live in houses that look just like the house of at least one other groundhog. Groundhogs that live in identical houses always play together. However, one groundhog has a house different from all the rest. Sometimes this groundhog is left all alone. If you can help find the lonely groundhog, perhaps you could introduce it to all the other groundhogs.

The Cards

Your group will receive a set of 40 cards. Without looking at the cards, evenly distribute them amongst the members of your group. Place them face down. Each card in the set will have a picture of a ground hog’s house. One card in the set is a singleton, meaning that there are no other cards with a house exactly like it. Every card other than this singleton has at least one duplicate.

The Task

Your group’s task is to discover the singleton card of the lonely groundhog. When your group thinks they have located the house of the lonely groundhog the task is ended, whether or not you are correct. Therefore, you must be sure that everyone is confident of your answer before you announce that you are done.

The Rules
1. You may not show any of your cards to another member in your group.
2. You may not trade or pass your cards to another member in your group.
3. You may not look at other member’s cards.
4. You may not draw pictures or diagrams of the houses.
5. You may not put cards in a common pile once you have found duplicate houses.
6. You may set your cards face down in front of you once you think you have found a match.

Aside from these rules, you may work in any way you choose. You may begin!

Post Game Discussion (possible questions)

What problems did you have in playing this game?

What were your group’s strengths and weaknesses?

How can you help your group work together better and improve your individual participation? How did you know when you were done?
How confident were you in knowing you had solved the problem?
Why were you so confident?

0.1 (homework)Lonely Groundhog

As you can tell from the activity Lonely Groundhog, people play a variety of roles when they work in groups. This assignment is an opportunity for you to reflect upon the way you participate in groups within a math classroom and outside of a math classroom. Be as thoughtful as possible when you answer these questions because they are designed to help you.

Note: This homework will not be shared with other students if you do not want it to be.

1. a. Think of a time when you or someone in your group was left out of the discussion. Describe the situation. Did anyone try to include that person? If not, why not? If yes, then how?

b. What might you have done to help with the situation?

2. a. What has been your experience when someone in your group has made a mistake?

b. How do you think a group should handle mistakes by other group members?

3. a. Think of a time when you wanted to say something, or you did not understand something, but were too afraid to say something. Describe the situation and why you did not say what you wanted to.

b. How do you wish you would have had handled the situation?

4. Do you participate more or less than other group members? Why do you think you do so?

5. Discuss how the amount of homework preparation you do for class affects your participation in group discussions and how your preparation affects the grade your group receives?

Welcome to touchy-feeley math 101. If you feel like this comic expresses, you are not alone (even if your district math specialist tells you that you are the only one that’s ever complained about the math program, which really happened to multiple parents in ASD).


Constructivist Intolerant


Is the USOE lying about ACT results?

For many years the USOE has touted how great Utah is for standardized test scores.  This past year they ran a pilot program paying for most of Utah’s students to take the ACT as an assessment test. It appears that about 97% of students took the test, and as expected, our state’s scores dropped with all the people taking the exam who normally wouldn’t.

Judy Park, Associate Superintendent at the Utah State Office of Education was quoted as saying in a KSL article, “We’re thrilled and pleased that the decrease is as small as it is and compared to other states we’ve done very well,” she said.

The USOE then proceeds to tell how we’re ahead of almost all comparable states that have more than 95% of their students take the ACT.

What’s amazing is that for several years the USOE has been very well aware of a fact that they don’t report.  At least since February 2006 and a few big reminders since then, they have known that these aggregated scores don’t represent reality. Utah’s population is over 80% Caucasian. Minorities typically score less on standardized tests. When you take a weighted average score of 80% of the population outscoring the minorities, it’s going to tend to skew the figures toward a higher average. Comparing our weighted average to other states with sometimes significantly higher minority populations is an unfair comparison and puts us above national average, when the reality is that Utah is much lower than national average when just comparing each group demographically. The Deseret News blew the lid on this in 2007 where they told the truth that Utah was dead last in rankings.

The USOE’s recent report caused the media to report this concerning our overall scores:

“Utah’s scores ranked second behind Illinois and tied with North Dakota when compared to the 10 states where more than 95 percent of students took the test, according to the report.”

The truth is not quite so pretty. Dr. David Wright at BYU provided this table to me after he compared just math scores. Overall with math, Utah ranks 4th, but that doesn’t portray the sad picture that our minorities are falling way behind. Hispanics/Latinos in Utah scored at the bottom of the 10 states, and most other minority groups performed very poorly as well. Clearly Utah has work to do and we are not doing as well as the USOE likes to tout.

Black/African American17.517.317.616.916.316.516.716.417.017.55
American Indian/Alaska Native18.018.918.917.517.816.817.217.817.017.59
White21.822.721.019.720.919.621.419.921.020.6tied for 4th
Native Hawaiian/Other Pac. Isl.19.821.318.918.319.418.219.819.217.717.69
Two or more races20.821.319.819.219.318.420.319.420.020.0
Prefer not/No Response19.819.920.118.719.518.720.218.519.419.5
All Students20.521.019.919.420.118.321.019.120.320.24

Common Core math horror stories and higher-order thinking

Has your child started back to school yet? Noticed anything different about education under Common Core? Here are 3 parent’s troubling math stories about their experiences starting back into school.

1) One of my daughters decided to go back to the district junior high this year from a charter school and yesterday brought home her new Common Core math book for 7th grade. It’s the first half of the year textbook and as I flipped through it I realized she’d had a lot of this math already, some of it 2 years ago. For example, one problem at the back of this textbook was 45 minus 4.5. I went and spoke with the teacher and learned that she was going to be supplementing the class with her own more rigorous material. Our district (Alpine) did significant work selected a textbook but unfortunately because of the crisis created by the USOE’s statewide implementation so fast after Common Core was released, we had to get textbooks in place before many were available that met (or exceeded) these low standards.

2) A co-worker of mine has a 5th grader in Jordan school district who left a really solid charter school and returned to a district school. They carefully researched the teachers at the school and found the one that was supposed to be the most rigorous or accelerated that would help their son really learn math. On the first day of class, their son was devastated when the teacher announced that everyone should be excited because this year under Common Core they were going to learn their times tables, something he’d done in school 2 years earlier. The family is very concerned.

3) My senior daughter came home from her first day of A/P statistics and said the teacher told the class they weren’t going to do math till 2nd semester and would just focus on vocabulary for the 1st semester (can you say constructivism?). The class then took turns reading paragraphs out of the book. The teacher’s favorite part of each chapter is the “conversations” in the book and she assigns class members to role play them. The teacher actually did send home some math problems for these seniors, most of whom had A/P Calculus last year. The sheet was called statistics essentials. Here’s a problem from it. “If you have $15.73 and each pound of gummy bears costs $3.28 after taxes, how many pounds of gummy bears can you purchase?” I think our daughter did this level of work about 5-6 years ago. Unbelievable how dumbed down this is for our children.

You can thank the USOE for the statewide dumbing down that’s about to occur.

On Lone Peak high school’s website is an article from Principled Leadership magazine. Susan Gendron, a policy coordinator at SBAC is being interviewed by Mel Riddile about Common Core. Here’s one exchange which we hear all the time from state education officials.

Riddile: So the big picture is much higher rigor?

Gendron: Much higher. In the work I’m involved in with the SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium, we’re actually using a cognitive rigor matrix that was developed in 2009. It uses Bloom’s taxonomy and Norman Webb’s depth of knowledge to define what students need to be able to demonstrate to show that they’ve achieved proficiency.

I’m guessing a lot of parents are going to discover that “much higher rigor” doesn’t follow a traditional dictionary definition.

Most of us are probably familiar with Bloom’s taxonomy where people move from knowledge to comprehension to application to analysis to synthesis to evaluation to achieve what he terms higher-order thinking. Educators are infatuated with Bloom’s work in education. They spout higher-order thinking and critical thinking skills in practically every document they produce as what their goal is in education. Most of them have never taken the time to learn what Bloom’s goal was, moral relativism.

“…a student attains ‘higher order thinking’ when he no longer believes in right or wrong. A large part of what we call good teaching is a teacher´s ability to obtain affective objectives by challenging the student’s fixed beliefs. …a large part of what we call teaching is that the teacher should be able to use education to reorganize a child’s thoughts, attitudes, and feelings.”
-Benjamin Bloom, psychologist and educational theorist, “Major Categories in the Taxonomy of Educational Objectives,” pg. 185

That’s quite the statement to chew on. This is not to say that your children’s teachers are all doing this to your children, because most of them are wonderful people who genuinely want to help children learn to evaluate situations in life with the skills they are passing on. However, there are many teachers who share this prominent belief in moral relativism. When you hear the term critical thinking, to them it means thinking critically about all the morals, patriotism, and knowledge that have been passed on to you from the institutions of family and church. No institution of learning is safe from these types of philosophies, even BYU (link 1)(link 2), so you can imagine what’s happening at other universities.

It is the responsibility of parents to ensure their children are getting a well-rounded education which includes moral absolutes, otherwise the fabric of our American republic will waste away. Freedom based in law only works when people have a solid belief system in God-given moral absolutes so that honesty and integrity are valued above situational ethics which may not always dictate fair dealings with your fellow man. George Washington’s farewell address declared morality and religion as indispensable supports to our freedom, and prominent national educators have been tearing those down for many decades.

If you have never looked into a comparison of what prominent national educators have as a philosophy compared to religious leaders, here is one to consider.


Sutherland Institute Fact Checks USOE

The Sutherland Institute has responded to a letter from Brenda Hales at the Utah State Office of Education and published their fact check agreeing and disagreeing with various points. This is an important document.


Among their statements are these clips. Further explanations are on their page than what I’m copy/pasting so I encourage you to read their writeup.

USOE: “The State Board of Education has control over the standards and assessments for Utah. The State Board can and will change them as needed without outside group or federal approval. The State Board is solely responsible for overseeing the implementation of the standards in our state.”

Rating: False, except the final sentence.

USOE: “Utah has not lost its autonomy over standards and assessments.”

Rating: False.

USOE: “The Utah core standards may be changed by the State Board at any time.”

Rating: False, unless the state exits current agreements.

USOE: “The Utah core standards are not under the control or manipulation of special interest groups.”

Rating: Somewhat false.

USOE: “The Utah core standards are not obligatory because of Utah’s NCLB flexibility request application.”

Rating: False.


Letter to State Education Officials

Alisa Ellis sent this letter to Brenda Hales, other USOE officers, and the State School Board this morning. We wanted to share this with the public and ask that you share this as well. There is a need for a hearing, perhaps in an education committee interim legislative meeting. Questions are not being fully answered by state officials who continue to say we’re wrong but without producing documentation.

Brenda –

I know you and others at the State office are frustrated with our continual fight against Common Core.  This is why I feel it is time we sit down and talk.  As noted after the public forum at Granite district offices by a reporter (loosely quoted) “both sides left further entrenched in their views”.

I have seen the articles and statements put out by you and others at the state office and I have read many, many government documents relating to the Common Core Standards and other educational reform ideals.  From my perspective the documents and the statements  put out by your office do not mesh.

I’ve seen your timeline and also studied the minutes of your meetings.  I’ve studied the minutes from other states and feel that there is a lot of misrepresentation.  I know you feel that I am misinformed but I can assure you I’m more informed than I’ve ever been in my life.

Of course there are some documents and meetings I am not privy too and so I feel it is imperative to sit down with you and Superintendent Shumway and go over all the questions I and other parent’s and citizens have. At a meeting on April 6th with Governor Herbert, he promised to help us set up a meeting with Superintendent Shumway and so I’ve copied his secretary to get that ball rolling if I must.

I would like to see documentation to the statements made by the state office.

I would like to see exactly how you and other’s in UT wrote the Math and ELA standards.  Especially after I listened to the audio of the board meeting where you said they didn’t want us (UT) to send a team to help write the standards because they didn’t want it to turn into a Constitutional convention.  I’d like to see a comparison showing the difference between Common Core State Standards and the Utah Core.  I am very confused as to how UT claims to have written copyrighted standards.  I read in the NCLB waiver that UT cross-walked our standards with Common Core standards.  I’d like you to show me exactly how that was done and like I said show me the differences in the standards.

I’d like to know why members of the board are of the opinion that UT is not bound to any contractual obligations.  We have an approved waiver application to NCLB (contractual obligation) and yet members of the board are of the opinion we can change our standards whenever we want.  Be prepared in the meeting to explain exactly what process this will take when we’ve agreed to the definitions in the document and attached evidence of how we’ll meet the requirements outlined by the Dept. of Ed.

It is not effective to continue this “he said, she said dialogue”.  We must have a meeting.  I recognize it is summer but feel an urgency to sit down and talk with you.

I am available this week.

We do not need to keep down this path of confrontation.  It is not conducive to constructive dialogue.  I have 6 children in the public schools in UT and have no plans of backing down on my questions until I am satisfied that the answers given are backed up by fact and documentation and that this is the best move for our state and our children.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Thank you,

Alisa Ellis

The Common Core Presentation

On Tuesday, July 10th, four experts on Common Core from out-of-state came to Utah to speak with the Governor, legislators, and the public. The videos below show two of their presentations. The audio on the public presentation is better than the legislator luncheon video so you may want to watch it.

We hope you will watch this presentation in its entirety to become better informed and educated on this vital issue of our day. If you would like to make a contribution to assist our efforts in spreading the truth about Common Core, please click the Contribute link to the right and select Common Core in block F. We appreciate your support and encourage you to share this video and other resources with friends and neighbors.

90-second Teaser from the public meeting Tuesday night


Full public meeting presentation


Full presentation to legislators

Christel Swasey Responds to Brenda Hales

On July 10th, 2012, a public forum was held where 4 visiting experts shared concerns with Common Core. A press release was sent out earlier in the day causing Brenda Hales, a USOE administrator, to post a statement on the Utah Public Education website trying to offer the official line on Common Core. Christel Swasey, a Utah public education teacher, challenged her statement with this fact filled rebuttal. I encourage you to read Brenda’s post as well so you can see what’s being said by the USOE.


To Whom It May Concern:

The following information directly conflicts with this week’s statement about Common Core and national educational reforms as published by the USOE at http://utahpubliceducation.org/2012/07/10/utahs-core-standards-assessments-and-privacy-regulations/.

The following information has links to references so that you can verify what is claimed, unlike the unreferenced information given by the USOE.

1. Personally identifiable student data will be shared with governmental and non-governmental entities, both in-state and out of state, as never before.

The Federal Register outlines, on page 51, that it is not a necessity for a school to get student or parental consent any longer before sharing personally identifiable information; that has been reduced to the level of optional.

“It is a best practice to keep the public informed when you disclose personally identifiable information from education records.”  http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2011-12-02/pdf/2011-30683.pdf

Dec. 2011 regulations, which the Dept. of Education made without Congressional approval and for which they are now being sued by EPIC, literally loosen, rather than strengthen, parental consent rules and other rules.  http://www.jdsupra.com/post/documentViewer.aspx?fid=5aa4af34-8e67-4f42-8e6b-fe801c512c7a

A lawyer at EPIC disclosed that these privacy intrusions affect not only children, but anyone who ever attended any college or university (that archives records, unless it is a privately funded university).

Because the 2011 changes stretch and redefine terms like “authorized representative” and “educational program” to include non-governmental agencies and many additional governmental agencies, effectively, there is no privacy regulation governing schools anymore, on the federal level. (Thanks to Utah legislators who are on the case, we might soon have stronger privacy laws to protect Utahns from the new federal intrusion).

The types of information that the Department will collect includes so much more than academic information: it includes biometric information (DNA, fingerprints, iris patterns) and parental income, nicknames, medical information, extracurricular information, and much more. See page 4 at  http://www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/fpco/pdf/ferparegs.pdf and see http://nces.sifinfo.org/datamodel/eiebrowser/techview.aspx?instance=studentPostsecondary

Utah’s federally-funded State Longitudinal Database System (SLDS) exists for the purpose of sharing data not only among state agencies but from the state to the US Dept. of Ed.  The SLDS also exists to “manage” and “disaggregate” educational information within the state.   –A briefing was given in Utah, August 2010 by John Brandt, who is the USOE Technology Director and a member of the federal Dept. of Education, a member of the federal NCES, and a chair member of CCSSO (an organization that helped develop and promote the Common Core national standards.) On page 5 of Brandt’s online powerpoint, he explains that student records and transcripts can be used from school districts to the USOE or USHE “and beyond,” and can also be shared between the USOE and the US Department of Education.

Utah’s P-20 workforce council exists to track citizens starting in preschool, and to “forge organizational and technical bonds and to build the data system needed to make informed decisions” for stakeholders both in and outside Utah. — http://www.prweb.com/releases/2012/2/prweb9201404.htm

The linking of data from preschool to post-secondary and on to workforce, both locally and to D.C., allows agencies easy access, technologically and in terms of legal policy.

The SLDS and P-20 systems were paid for by the federal government and they transform the way data is shared– and the federally stated purpose for all the data gathering is educational research– yet this also allows the state and federal governments to track, steer and even punish teachers, students and citizens more easily. http://cte.ed.gov/docs/NSWG/Workforce_Data_Brief.pdf

Data linking changes are not just technological in nature; there are also changes being made in regulations and policies that make former privacy protection policies all but meaningless.  The changes are so outrageous, harming parental consent law and privacy concerns so much that the Department of Education has been sued over it. The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) sued the Dept. of Education, under the Administrative Procedure Act, arguing that the Dept. of Ed’s regulations that changed the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act in Dec. 2011 exceeded the Department of Education’s authority and are contrary to law. http://epic.org/apa/ferpa/default.html

The Federal Register of December 2011 outlines the Dept. of Education’s new, Congressionally un-approved regulations, that decrease parental involvement and increase the number of agencies that have access to private student data: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2011-12-02/pdf/2011-30683.pdf  (See page 52-57)

Although the Federal Register describes countless agencies, programs and “authorities” that may access personally identifiable student information, it uses permissive rather than mandatory language.  The obligatory language comes up in the case of the Cooperative Agreement between the Department of Education and the states’ testing consortium –of which Utah is still a member: http://www2.ed.gov/programs/racetothetop-assessment/sbac-cooperative-agreement.pdf

In that document, states are obligated to share data with the federal government “on an ongoing basis,” to give status reports, phone conferences and other information, and must synchronize tests “across consortia”. This triangulation nationalizes the testing system and puts the federal government in the middle of the data collecting program.

For more information about the history of similar actions taken by the federal Dept. of Education that infringe upon state law and freedom, see the white paper by ROPE (Restore Oklahoma Public Education) entitled “Analysis of Recent Education Reforms and the Resulting Impact on Student Privacy”  —  http://www.scribd.com/doc/94149078/An-Analysis-of-Recent-Education-Reforms-and-the-Resulting-Impact-on-Student-Privacy

For understanding of the motivation of the federal government, read some of the US Dept. of Education Arne Duncan’s or Obama’s speeches that show the passion with which the federal agency seeks access to data to control teachers and educational decisions. http://www2.ed.gov/news/speeches/2009/06/06082009.pdf

2. The State Board of Education has virtually no control over the national standards it has adopted for Utah. 

Governing documents of Common Core state that the Utah School Board may not delete anything from the national standards and can only add 15% to them.  If Utah needs to add about a whole year’s worth of improvement to a given standard, as is the case with the 6th and 9th grade Common Core “math bubble” of repetition experienced this year in districts that implemented Common Core math, we can’t add more –and remain the same as Common Core nationally.  Our 6th and 9th graders learn no math for an entire year because of the lack of local control.  (Prior to Common Core, 8th graders learned Algebra I.  Under Common Core, 9th graders learn Algebra I.)  Because the NGA placed the standards under copyright, Utah can not amend them in any way. http://www.corestandards.org/terms-of-use   To illustrate, even a member of the state school board couldn’t do anything more than pull her grandkids out of public school to deal with the situation.  The school board member home schooled her 8th grade grandson and 9th grade granddaughter this year, “since our school district had decided to adopt the Common Core for every grade rather than what was proposed by the state. It was proposed that we only adopt for the 6th and 9th grade and provide alternative programs for those students who already had the skills being taught to all through the Common Core.” http://whatiscommoncore.wordpress.com/2012/07/07/state-and-local-school-board-perceptions-of-common-core-differ-13-2/

Additionally, any changes (up to 15%) that Utah makes to the national standards will never be taken into account on the common standardized tests.  The test developer, WestEd, affirmed that “in order for this system to have a real impact within a state, the state will need to adopt the CCSS, i.e., not have two sets of standards.”


Anecdotally: those Utah teachers who love Common Core confuse the academic standards themselves with the methodologies being used to implement them.  New methodologies in many cases are excellent, but have nothing to do with national standards.  They are used in non-Common Core states.  Innovative methodologies that work well are not tied to the common national standards, which are only academic levels that could just as easily be higher or lower, and can still be taught free of Common Core’s rules, using the good methodologies.

Utah has lost its autonomy over standards and assessments. The next time Utah reviews standards and wishes to raise the bar, what will happen? There is no CCSS amendment process.  Also, since most states joined Common Core, and we’re virtually all the same; where is the collaboration, competition or better example to aspire to?

The common national standards were adopted due to federal recommendations during the initial Race to the Top application for funding for federal money.  Fortunately, since Utah didn’t receive the money, we can escape Common Core without serious financial problems. And we should.  Despite the letter of March 7, 2012 from Arne Duncan, stating “states have the sole right to set learning standards,” legally binding documents conflict with that Constitutional right, as well as with Duncan’s promises and with the Cooperative Agreement Duncan made with the SBAC.

When the Dept. of Education forced states to choose between No Child Left Behind and Common Core, they proved that Common Core is just the next federal program.

The ESEA Flexibility releases “waiver winning” states from No Child Left Behind law, only on conditions of implementing Common Core.  On page 8 of the ESEA Flexibility document (updated June 7, 2012)  found at  http://www.ed.gov/esea/flexibility, please read:   “A State’s college- and career-ready standards must be either (1) standards that are common to a significant number of States; or (2) standards that are approved by a State network of institutions of higher education”.

Thus, since Utah chose option one, we are stuck in Common Core by choosing to accept the NCLB waiver. On page 9 of the same document, we read:

“ ‘Standards that are common to a significant number of States’ means standards that are substantially identical across all States in a consortium that includes a significant number of States.  A State may supplement such standards with additional standards, provided that the additional standards do not exceed 15 percent of the State’s total standards for a content area. ”

Utah not only has to stick with the Common Core State Standards by having accepted NCLB; we also are restricted from adding to “our” standards.

3. Utah applied for, but fortunately did not receive a Race to the Top (RTTT) grant.   This means Utah can leave Common Core without having to pay back a grant, something that some other states wishing to flee Common Core’s entanglements cannot do.

But, because the SBAC did receive a large RTTT grant for assessment development and because Utah is a member of SBAC, we are bound to the federal government’s data collection rules and the national standards/assessments, with Washington State our fiscal agent as long as we remain an SBAC member.

The Department of Education first incentivized the adoption of the Common Core, and then incentivized adoption of national testing.  Utah is under obligations associated with the SBAC grant as long as we remain a member of that consortium.

Exiting the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium system requires getting federal approval.  But if Utah withdraws from the consortium via the formal exit process, we will then no longer be obligated to share data with the federal government and share nationally synchronized tests, but we will still be allowed to share data with the federal government under the new FERPA regulatory changes, unless EPIC wins their lawsuit against the Dept. of Education this year.

To sum up: Common Core is very similar to Obamacare.  Governor Herbert said very eloquently that Obama’s  “Affordable Care Act imposes a one-size-fits-all plan on all states, effectively driving us to the lowest common denominator. It results in burdensome regulation, higher costs, and a massive, budget-busting… expansion.”   If you substitute the word “Common Core” for “Affordable Care Act,” you’ll understand what the federal education push is all about.  The Federal Government did not initiate both the educational and the medical programs, but does control both.

-Christel Swasey


fact vs. myth

Email Exchange with Dixie Allen on the State Board

Paul Rolly gives new meaning to the word spin after publishing an article in the SL Tribune today indicating that I got into a “vicious e-mail exchange” with Dixie Allen of the State School Board and that I became “unhinged”. So I decided I should publish the email exchange since it’s obvious that others are floating the exchange around and it now needs to be seen in full light.

Mr. Rolly also makes several false assumptions in his article such as saying this is a right-wing movement. It is not. There are Democrats I have corresponded with such as Lynn Stoddard, a respected retired educator who has been outspoken against Common Core for its inability to individualize education for students.  Lynn just had an op-ed published in the Deseret News which I encourage everyone to read. (link)

It’s humorous as well that Mr. Rolly says we’ve “[requested] volumes of records” when in fact we have had to dig and find documents ourselves on state and federal websites to put together a picture of the federal plan to nationalize education.

Mr. Rolly also says Carol Lear denies saying what I quote her saying below, but that came directly from communication she had in April 2012 acting in her capacity as the legal counsel for the USOE to Utah school teacher Christel Swasey. (link)

In April of this year the State School Board held a public forum to listen to public concerns on Common Core. After announcing how they wanted public input, they worked to stack the deck with UEA, PTA, and school teachers to come speak in favor of the Common Core and not actually let the public air their full concerns.

At this event, they passed out a flier with what they labeled fact and fiction, taking everything that parents such as myself have raised concerned over and calling them fiction, while listing their own explanations as fact. In their “fact” sections they didn’t reference a single document. Over the next couple days, Utah school teacher Christel Swasey wrote a rebuttal to their flier and listed numerous documents in support of the evidence as to why they were wrong. I then posted the rebuttal online and sent this first email below to the State School Board, Superintendent Shumway, and legislators. Here is the full exchange.


Dear State School Board and USOE,

Having seen your full color flier on Common Core this past week, a Utah teacher has prepared a full rebuttal based on documented facts, and challenges you to refute it.







It is so unfortunate that you feel the need to tear down policy, procedure and curriculum rather than build on what can work and move forward.  I want so to build on what is good and improve on that which is not working.  We need to prepare our students to be capable of working in a world economy and striking out against anything that may improve our curriculum because it comes outside Utah only undermines our chances to prepare our students for the world they are inheriting.

Regardless, I will take the credible concerns from teachers, parents and students and work to improve on our curriculum and support systems to the degree we can afford to do with the dollars and structure we have available.

Would love to have you work with us, instead of against us.



Hi Dixie,

So far our concerns have fallen on completely deaf ears. Nobody at the USOE or state board has given any validity to what we’ve brought up.  These concerns have been called lies and misrepresentations, or dismissed as “fiction” in official documents by the State Office and Board.  I wouldn’t exactly call that seeking to work with us, especially considering that our facts are backed up by actual documents while the board flier passed out last Thursday didn’t have a single reference to back up your “facts.” We would love to have our concerns receive serious and honest answers but, so far, that’s not been the case.




Maybe that is because we don’t have time to chase all your conspiracy issues down — we are too busy making sure we have our curriculum in place, assessment that correctly assesses the curriculum, quality instruction in every classroom, evaluations of teachers and principals to insure such quality instruction and support from our legislature to properly fund the system.  We do not have time to chase the conspiracy issues that you and others keep bringing to our table.  We are absolutely convinced that this adoption of core standards is a step in the right direction and regardless of your issues, we will be working hard to amend, improve, add to and assess these standards — rather than wasting time trying to answer all the questions that have no bearing on the quality of education we are providing.

That’s what I wish you were working for.




We know the board is busy and the state office as well, and yet we’re not even asking you to do a ton of research. We’ve done it for you and are just providing it to you. It’s quite stunning that you would call our concerns conspiracy theories when they come right out of documents the state office has filed or direct quotes from officials that are well aware of what’s going on.

For example, is it a conspiracy theory that Larry Shumway went on Rod Arquette’s radio show and announced that he’s concerned how President Obama and Secretary Duncan are taking credit for the Common Core standards and how the DoEd is already pressuring the state in some way associated with the standards? https://www.utahnsagainstcommoncore.com/utah-state-superintendent-admits-to-federal-pressure-on-cc/

Is it a conspiracy theory that Retired Appellate Judge Norman Jackson reviewed the documents we have concerns with and said:

“What is the role of the federal government in Common Core standards implementation? According to proponents of the standards, the federal government has had NO role in their implementation. Concerned citizens, including mothers and teachers, have done their homework and conclude the opposite. They asked me to examine the contracts. Based on my examination of three underlying contract documents—I concur with the citizens.”

“In 2010, the State of Utah (Executive Branch) joined the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium. In 2011, the Consortium signed a Cooperative Contract with the U. S. Department of Education. These contracts legally bind Utah to proceed with implementation of the Federal Common Core Standards.” ?

Is it a conspiracy theory when we say the standards are not great and Utah doesn’t currently have the right to modify them and then USOE legal counsel Carol Lear says, “The whole point is to get to a place where there is a ‘common core’ – that would mean the same standards for all the states that adopt it.  If the states had the freedom to ‘disagree’ and ‘change’ them, I guess they would no longer be ‘common’.”  ?

The problem we face is that everyone at the state who claims to value local control is so busy with so many things, they don’t want to hear from concerned citizens who have spent literally hundreds of hours researching what’s going on. It’s easy to dismiss someone else’s concerns when you label them liars and conspiracy theorists, but that doesn’t do anything to build the relationships of cooperation you claim to value.




I guess what I am saying is — We have heard your message and are working hard to be sure we are doing what is appropriate to move forward and support quality education for the students of the state.  You do not need to keep beating us over the head with the same message.



At this point one of the legislators who had been following along emailed this response.


Hello Dixie,

I have been following this ongoing conversation between you and Oak Norton. I am disappointed that a state employee would be as dis-respectful to a private citizen as you have been to Mr. Norton.  I appreciate citizens who contact the state regarding issues that could impact the education of our children.  Could you please help me understand your hostile attitude toward Mr. Norton? His emails present legitimate issues and concerns with common core.  Wouldn’t it be better to respond with rebuttals that qualify and support Utah State Office of Education positions on these issues rather than attacking people as conspiracy theorists.

Rep Mike Noel

P.S.  Retired Judge Norman Jackson is a solid citizen and a good friend


This email was followed by another representative making this comment and Rep. Noel’s final response.



I believe that Dixie should be able to express her opinion as a state employee or as a private citizen. We should be able to get input from anyone and everyone regardless of their employment.  If Dixie wants to share her opinion with us on any issue, I welcome it.

Representative Jim Bird


Hello Jim

I agree that Dixie can share her personal opinions as can any state employee or any member of the USOE or State School Board.  However, I strongly believe that state employees when dealing with their customers (the public) have an obligation to be professional and to answer inquiries from the public in a professional manner.  I am sure you agree that we don’t want state employees treating members of the public, and especially your constituents, in a rude condescending manner.    I think you are stretching it to say Mrs. Allen is responding to Mr. [Norton] from a personal point of view.   Read her statements, she is expressing the opinions of the USOE and from her position as the Vice Chairman of the State School Board.   When she assumes that role, she is no longer afforded the option of being disrespectful to those that may offer a different opinion on what I consider is an important issue.  FYI, I also don’t think Dixie was sharing her opinion with you or me or any of us, I think she was responding to a request for a policy review of the implementation of Common Core to Mr. [Norton].  I was actually interested in seeing what the official response was going to be from USOE and the Board, as opposed to … stop pestering us with your conspiracy theories.  Have a nice day.


[Rep Mike Noel]


That’s the “vicious” and “unhinged” attack in all its gore. Mr. Rolly sure weaves a fancy spin of events to marginalize people. Maybe the SL Tribune headline was properly titled after all. :)

Rolly: Rotten to the Core