Two Moms Against Common Core

Friday, April 27, 2012

Education Without Representation:

Education Without Representation:  a response to claims of the Utah State School Board’s Common Core flier  

The Utah State Board of Education has circulated a flier which is posted on the official website.
None of the claims of the flier have been backed up with references. This response will be backed up with references to verifiable sources and legally binding documents.
  • The flier says that Utah is "free to change the Utah Core Standards at any time,"
  • and calls the following truth a myth: "Adoption of these new Core Standards threatens the ability of parents, teachers and local school districts to control curriculum." These half-truths are extremely misleading.
FACT: It is true that Utah can change the current Utah Core. But Utah is not free to change the common CCSS standards. And very soon, the CCSS standards will be all we’ll teach. The CCSS standards are the only standards the common test is being written to. The CCSS standards are the only standards that are truly common to all Common Core states. Unique state standards are meaningless in the context of the tests. This has been verified by WestEd, the test maker.
When teachers realize that merit pay and student performance depend on how well teachers teach the CCSS, and not on how well they teach the Utah Core, they will abandon the state core and focus on teaching to the CCSS-based test. Since there is no possibility for Utah to make changes to CCSS, we have given up our educational system if we take the common test. This is education without representation. Already there are significant differences between the Utah Core and the CCSS (such as, we allow lots of classic literature and CCSS does not; it favors slashing literature in favor of infotexts in English classes). When additional wrongheaded changes come to the CCSS standards, under Common Core, Utah will be unable to do anything about it. CCSS has no amendment process.
FACT: The CCSS standards amount to education without representation. They cannot be amended by us, yet they are sure to change over time. A U.S.O.E. lawyer was asked, "Why is there no amendment process for the CCSS standards?" She did not claim that there was one. Instead, she replied: "Why would there need to be? The whole point is to be common." (Email received April 2012 by C. Swasey from C. Lear)
  • The flier states that this is a myth: "Utah adopted nationalized education standards that come with federal strings attached.”
FACT:   Utah's Cooperative Agreement with the U.S. Department of Education (via the SBAC tests; link below) presents so many federal strings, it's more like federal rope around Utah's neck.
The Cooperative Agreement mandates synchronization of testing arms and testing, mandates giving status updates and written reports and phone conferences with the federal branch and it demands that “across consortia,” member states provide data “on an ongoing basis” for perusal by the federal government. This federal control is, according to G.E.P.A. laws and the U.S. Constitution, an illegal encroachment by the federal government on our state.
FACT: The Federal government paid for the promotion of Common Core. It paid other groups to do what it constitutionally forbiddewn to do. Each group that worked to develop the standards and/or the test were federally funded and each remains under compliance regulations of federal grants. For two examples, PARCC (a testing consortium) was funded through a four-year, $185 million dollar grant from the U.S. Department of Education to delivering a K-12 assessment system. WestED, the other consortium test writer for SBAC, is funded by the executive branch, including the U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Department of Education, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Justice. There are many more examples of federal funding and federal promotion of this supposedly state-led initative if you just do a little digging.
FACT: To exit the SBAC, a state must get federal approval and the permission of a majority of consortium states.  (page 297). 
FACT:  When South Carolina recently made moves to sever ties with the Common Core Initiative, Arne Duncan, the U.S. Secretary of Education, began to make angry, unsubstatiated attacks, insulting South Carolina.   Duncan had similarly insulted Texas educators on national television and had made incorrect statements about Texas education, when that state refused to join Common Core.
  • The flier states that this is a myth: “Utah taxpayers will have to pay more money to implement the new Utah Core Standards.” 

FACT: No cost analysis has been done by Utah. (Ask U.S.O.E. to see one.)
FACT: Other states cited high implementation costs as reasons they rejected the Common Core Initiative. The Texas Education Agency estimated implementing the Common Core standards in the state would result in professional development costs of $60 million for the state and approximately $500 million for local school districts, resulting in a total professional development cost of $560 million. (p. 15) Also, Virginia’s State School Board cited both educational and financial reasons for rejecting Common Core.
FACT: California is asking for tax hikes right now to pay for Common Core Implementation.
FACT: South Carolina’s Governor Haley is right now trying to escape Common Core’s federal and financial entanglements.
  • The flier states that “The Utah Core Standards were created, like those in 44 other states, to address the problem of low expectations.”
This is a half-truth. While some dedicated Utahns have been working to address the problem of low expectations for years, the Common Core Initiative was hastily adopted for financial reasons. Utah agreed to join the Common Core and the SBAC long before the common standards had even been written or released, or any cost analysis or legal analysis had taken place. Utah joined Common Core and the SBAC to get more eligibility points in the points-based “Race to the Top” grant application. While Utah didn’t win the grant money, it stayed tied to Common Core and the SBAC testing consortium afterwards.
  • The flier states that this is a myth:  "Political leaders and education experts oppose the Common Core State Standards."
FACT:  Stanford Professor Michael Kirst testified, among other things, that it is unrealistic to call four year, two year, and vocational school preparation equal college readiness preparation:
FACT:  Professor Sandra Stotsky who served on the CC Validation Committee refused to sign off on the standards as authentic English preparation for college:
FACT: Mathematician Ze’ev Wurman has testified to the South Carolina Legislature that the math standards are insufficient college preparation: and

  • The flier states inaccurately states: “Most thoughtful people on this issue have lined up in favor of the Common Core State Standards.”
FACT: Governor Herbert is in the middle of a legal, educational and financial review of the standards right now. He affirmed to Heber City teachers and citizens last month that he is willing to review the standards and the political complications of the Common Core Initiative and to meet again with the teachers and citizens together with his legal team.
FACT: The majority of gubernatorial candidates and candidates for senate and house representation at the Republican convention have stated that they are directly opposed to the Common Core Initiative.  This fact is verifiable via the document published for the 2012 Republican convention by Alisa Ellis, on which each candidate was asked to state whether he/she was for, against, or still learning, about the Common Core Initiative. 
FACT:  In less than two weeks, more than 1,500 Utah teachers, parents, taxpayers and students have signed the petition at without any advertising or marketing efforts, just by word of mouth.
FACT:   There is a significant group of Utah educators who have not and will not speak out in this forum, although they do have serious concerns about the Common Core.  There is a perception that to speak against the Common Core Initiative is unacceptable or disloyal. This spiral of silence spins from the fear educators have of losing their jobs if they express what they really see. Some educators quietly and confidentially reveal this to others who boldly oppose to Common Core. 
Utah educators might respond well to an anonyomously administered survey, so that educators might feel safer in sharing multicolored rather than all rose colored, experiences from this first year of Common Core Implementation, without having to identify themselves.  Educators who have had a good experience with this first year of implementation of Common Core dare speak out.  But Utah educators who do speak out boldly against common core, if you pay close attention, are those who are on maternity leave or who have sources of income other than educating, for financial support, and are thus unafraid of losing jobs. 
This final point is obviously difficult to substantiate, but ought to be studied and either verified or proven false, by the Utah State School Board. 
Christel Swasey
Heber City
Parent and Teacher

Dear Editor,

It is well known that I've been actively trying to inform the public about concerns others and I have in relationship to the Common Core Initiative.  After presenting to the School Board in March I let them know that I would become a more active participate in what is going on in our local public school system by attending the School Board Meetings regularly.

It is for this reason that I found myself sitting in attendance at our local school board meeting last week on April 19th.  I had not had the opportunity to peruse the agenda prior to the meeting so I was in shock when I looked down at the agenda to see FERPA revision listed.

You see FERPA is Utah’s privacy law.  And when Renee and I presented our concerns about Common Core we let the school board know that we were also concerned about the collection of individual, identifiable data that would be tracked for “research”.  We asked them NOT to change any FERPA laws.  Now I understand that we are just two individuals and we certainly do not run the board but we wanted the board to know that this was a big concern for us.  

I don’t claim to be all knowing but I am actively researching and, as I understand, the National FERPA law is much looser than the UTAH FERPA law so school boards across the state are revising our FERPA laws, not to protect our children, but to give the Federal agency more access to our children’s data.  You may be thinking we always have collected data but it has never been individual, identifiable data before. 

When this action item came up at the meeting the school board very vaguely discussed this issue.  They just said they were adding #8 and #9 to the current FERPA law.  Someone suggested that they put it up for a 30-day review and that was quickly done away with and it was decided right then and there to vote on the revision.  The revision was unanimously passed and they moved on the next item.  The school board then spent 20 minutes asking about a sheet that would have fees on it for school sports for the High School.

I asked for a copy of the revision and the district kindly obliged.  They were adding ways in which “personally identifiable information” can be released “without the prior written consent of the parent” to “certain designated government or educational authorities” and “to organizations conducting studies for specific purposes on behalf of schools” among other things. 

As a citizen and parent I want to protect children in anyway I can.  I see this as a gross violation of my rights as a parent and feel the board should have put this up for public review. 

Alisa Ellis

I spoke with the Superintendent the Monday following this meeting. I asked if he could explain what happened and why they would pass that policy revision without so much as a second thought.  The least they could have done was put it up for public review.  I told him that we had warned him specifically the month before that the FERPA policy would be coming up for review.  

I demanded he tell me who the directive to make such a revision came from.  He told me that they just decided to review the policy.  I told him I find it hard to believe that it just happens to be a coincidence that our district and others around the state just happen to be revising our FERPA policy around the same time.  I once again asked him to tell me who is sending out the directive.  He told me that he goes to so many different meetings it's hard to sort them all out.

He told me they had no choice.  I said then why did it go before a vote.  He said they had to be in compliance.  I again asked why it went before a vote and that in my mind anytime something goes to vote you DO have a choice.  You can choose to stand for something.  I told him to stop thinking I'm here to fight him.  I want to help him.  This is the second time he's told me that he has no choice but to do what he's told.  I said I don't have to use your name but I want to help you so that I never have to hear you say I had to do it.  I want to help you so that you can say no.  You can have a choice.  You can make a decision at the local level because it's in the best interest of our local district.  I want to help you but you are making it difficult.  

He gave me the name of Vicky Gappemeyer.  I asked if she would be able to help me sort out who sent out the directive.  He quickly stuttered that he had actually given her the directive.  He then told me that I don't need to know where the directive came from "all I needed to know if that it needed to be changed to reflect what we had to do."

I closed the conversation by letting him know that I had never been outspoken in my life but that I feel an urgency to do so now and that I fear he's made a great mistake.

Here is the letter that he submitted to our local paper after that:

To Obey, or Not to Obey

Editor: A few citizens have outlined concerns about how a revision to Wasatch School Board’s Policy on Federal Education Rights and Privacy Act could be done so quickly in the Board meeting held April 19, 2012. The citizens were concerned that these changes were made without public input in the meeting and/or without a 30 day review period to let citizens comment. Let me explain how this could be done in a School Board Meeting.

In the meeting on April 19, 2012, the Board discussed an agenda action item entitled, “Revision-FERPA policy”. The discussion was short and centered on the changes proposed and whether there was a need for a 30 day review period. The Board made the decision to not have a 30 day review period for public comment because the revision items on the policy that needed updating to Federal FERPA (34 CFR Part 99) statute, and USOE Board Rule (R277-487-4). Board members knew that these, and all policies that are brought to them are reviewed by our attorneys for compliance to law before they are finalized.

After the meeting, a citizen approached the Board and was upset that the policy would not go out for further review. She also expressed her disappointment that the Board was not representing her concerns about federal control of public education. Board members assured her that the School District is very conscientious about protecting children’s privacy rights, and the Board intends to follow state and federal rules and laws.

Choosing to not agree with these citizens does not mean that the Wasatch Board of Education was deliberately hiding facts. It does not mean that the Board of Education is pushing an agenda that encourages federal involvement with public education. Nor does it mean that we should provide for a 30 day public review for every policy, particularly when no such review can alter the fact that we must comply.

Concerns about Federal FERPA statutes should be handled by Federal officials and our elected U.S. Congressional representatives and senators. Only they have the power to make a difference with federal laws.

Wasatch County School District is subject to federal and state laws. We must be in compliance with them. Not only is a significant amount of federal and state funding at risk if we choose not to comply, but in some cases, other serious ramifications might also occur. It was the intent to be in compliance with federal and state regulations that these revisions were adopted by the Board

Supt. Terry Shoemaker

Wasatch County School District

Read more:The Wasatch Wave - Letters

I wasn't the citizen that approached after the meeting but that was a friend of mine.  

I would like the Superintendent to explain what serious ramifications we might face.  I have been busily researching this FERPA law and will continue to do so.  

Today I talked with Carol Lear who is the lawyer for the USOE.  Unbelievable!!!   She said she is "baffled" that all of the districts are changing their policies.  She started our conversation telling me that we don't have a State FERPA law.  I questioned her on that and she didn't really answer but told me that the Utah FERPA law and the portion they are changing to match the National FERPA law are talking about two different things.  

I conferred with someone I trust and she said it is correct that they are two separate parts of the FERPA law.  The portion being revised by the districts is to release data and the Utah state FERPA is to protect the collection of data.  One has to wonder if they required that we send data will they then come along and require that we collect the data? 

She told me that the ED dept. had every right to change the FERPA law.  I told her that from my understanding they didn't change the law they changed their regulation by circumventing Congress.  She said that happens in all different agencies.  I told her that yes indeed there is a lot of corruption in the Government and we must put a stop to it.  She told me that even Homeland Security changes their laws without going through the proper channels.  I'm not sure what she was trying to do there but I reiterated that yes there is a lot of corruption that needs to be taken care of.  

She told me that I didn't need to "fear".  All I need to do is write my district a letter and demand that they do not release my children's data.  I explained to her that I do not live in fear.  I told her boldly that I am gathering information to increase my knowledge and the more knowledge I gain the more power I have because I am informed.  I do not fear I told her.  I have the responsibility to increase my knowledge so that I can inform other parents of what is going on so that they too can increase their knowledge and stay informed.

She again told me she was baffled and doesn't understand all of the misinformation going around or what the parents are worried about.  I said I will tell her why.  We are not misinformed.  I told her that if she would read the cooperative agreement she would see that we are bound to collect data and triangulate that data across consortia.  I told her that as part of the Recovery act our state had to create a longitudinal database.  I told her that whenever we accept Federal Funds they like to tell us what to do with that money and they set the rules.  

I didn't let her talk anymore but told her that although I respect her interpretation of the law I was going to seek other advice from other lawyers so that I can be armed with as much information as I can.  I thanked her again for helping me to gather as much information as I could so that I could inform other parents.  I told her I may be calling if I needed more information.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Here's my stance...

My response to a candidate when asked to speak with someone that would disagree with my stance on Common Core:

I am happy to talk with her but will not have time today.  Should I put you down as in favor or undecided?

I've spoken with many people about this including the Governor in depth.  I recognize there are many people with varying degrees of opinions about the Common Core initiative.  As stated in my previous email if this were simply about raising standards I would be fully in support.  I have been scouring the Dept. of Ed at the state level and national level for information and asking them MANY questions that have gone unanswered.  Through this research I find the attempt to Nationalize Education in America and I am absolutely NOT in support of this movement.  

The fact sheets that are being put out by the USOE are not backed by evidence and they will not produce the evidence needed when asked for it.  When asked by a friend of mine if they had done a legal analysis on the Cooperative Agreement the legal department of the USOE said they didn't believe such a document existed and once they were presented with the document they began stonewalling her.  I listened to the State School Board meeting when they began this subject.  They describe West Ed approaching the states asking them to meet in Chicago to develop these National Standards.  From the beginning they try to claim that this is not Federally led but openly admit that they are national standards.  The Federal Government is smarter than simply coming outright and demanding that we adopt Federal Standards.  They paid other people to do what they are not allowed to do. 

They talk about this all happening at a critical time because of the stimulus bill.  They state that things are moving rapidly because the CCSSO and the NGA were given money to develop these standards.  They state that ACHEIVE, ACT and many others are willing to write these standards for free but ONLY if we sign the MOU by Monday.  (the meeting was held on a Friday)  They laugh about how the Federal government can just give us large amounts of money or they will just print it.  I know that we didn't receive the RTTT for our individual state but the meeting showed a lack of in depth study.  They even admit that this is not a Race to the Top but a Race for the Money.  They say that the requirements for the RTTT are to join a consortium of states for standards and for assessments.

The USOE is telling people that this all happened before the RTTT but it was only one month before the official announcement and in the MOU it gives the Federal government permission to fund the CCSS through means like RTTT.  This is only a sampling of some of the things I've been going through but it paints a clear picture to me the Ed. Department is trying to side-step law to push their agenda.  I realize that there are some that think nationalizing our education would be good for America.  I, however, do not.

Many say that this is all a political move.  I've never taken a stance on anything before and have never been involved in politics in my life.  Something moved inside of me when I first heard about Common Core and once I started in depthly researching I felt a call to action.

Thank you for keeping an open mind and at least looking into research presented on both sides.  They don't mesh and they should.

Alisa Ellis

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Deseret News Article

The above article did a decent job of trying to tell an even story but just by the title you can tell which way it's slanted.  I need to clear something up - "There's no harm in raising the standards," Ellis said. "I just don't think it should be done the way it's being done." 

 I never said there is no harm in raising the standards.  I told Mr. Wood that I am all for raising standards but I don't think we're doing it the right way. 

If you don't want to read the entire article skip down to the bottom to see the facts they've been looking for.


SALT LAKE CITY — Criticism of the Common Core State Standards is intensifying as Utah's election season progresses.
Utah has been a part of the consortium of states implementing common educational standards for more than two years. But the topic has gained notoriety in recent months, from multiple bills debated during the legislative session asserting the state's educational sovereignty, to candidates for public office frequently being questioned on their support or opposition to the standards.
The Common Core State Standards are a set of achievement benchmarks in mathematics and English language arts. They are voluntarily adopted, with the goal of improving college- and career-readiness among students as well as establishing a degree of educational consistency between states.
To many, however, that push for inter-state consistency and collaboration echoes over-reaching federal control of local education. After 10 years of hearing educators lament the teach-to-the-test burden of No Child Left Behind, many parents are crying foul.
The group Utahns Against Common Core has launched a petition on its website and has gathered more than 1,000 signatures. The petition calls for a withdrawal from the common core standards and demands that full control over curriculum and assessments be given to local school districts. It also calls for the state to develop a five-year plan to remove any and all dependence on federal education funding.
Sydnee Dickson, director of teaching and learning for the State Office of Education, said most of the concerns she's heard regarding the standards are based on misinformation. She said much of the furor over Common Core is politically-motivated — stemming from anti-federal sentiment and ignoring the standards themselves — and is perpetuated by blogs instead of factual data.
"We're already seeing higher pass rates," she said. "Our experience since we began the adoption is that it's changed the instruction. Teachers are expecting more rigor."
Utah Eagle Forum President Gayle Ruzicka said she supports raising education standards in Utah, but doesn't agree that the states needs national benchmarks to do so.
"We don't have to do Common Core to raise mathematics standards," she said. "We don't have to do Common Core to work with other states. Raising standards and Common Core are two different things."
Ruzicka, like many opponents of Common Core, foresees a federal takeover of education with Utah's participation held hostage by federal dollars. Dickson said that there is no tie between adopting the standards and receiving federal funding and emphasized the  standards do not threaten state sovereignty.
"Teachers and school districts are still in control of what is being taught and how it's being taught," she said.
The topic was addressed recently at an April 11 Republican gubernatorial debate. Nearly all the candidates expressed a need for greater local control of education, with Morgan Philpot and William Skokos stating explicitly their opposition to the Common Core State Standards.
"I will fight to get us out of Common Core," Philpot said, drawing cheers from the crowd.
Gov. Gary Herbert, who has overseen the adoption of the Common Core standards, instead focused on the need for greater rigor in Utah classrooms and spoke favorably of shutting down the federal Department of Education.
While anti-federal ideology plays a large part in the debate, there is also a concern among some parents, like Alisa Ellis, that the common standards would impede well-performing students from accelerating their education. Ellis has worked with her children to get ahead in math and hopefully complete AP Calculus in their junior year of high school. She said she was unsure what effect the new benchmarks would have on students in the tops of their classes. 
"How can you take a whole nation and put it into the same window without hurting the top and bottom?" Ellis said.
Dickson said that under Common Core, accelerated tracks and honors courses will continue to be available. If a student is gifted enough to skip courses, parents and school districts can work together to make that happen. 
She also said that with AP examinations taken independent of a classroom, there is nothing to stop a student in their junior year from registering for and taking the test if they feel proficient.
Dawn Davies, Utah Parent Teacher Association vice president, agreed with Dickson, saying the standards set a minimum benchmark for each grade but do not prevent anyone from moving ahead. She said the standards help make students better able to meet global and local business needs and prepare students who are entering or exiting the state.
"We are a mobile society and as people come to our state we need to have the high standards," Davies said.
Ruzicka, however, downplayed the need for inter-state consistency as a solution in search of a problem.
Ellis said she is more worried about federal control than the standards themselves. She said she met with Herbert and members of the State Board of Education but that they had failed to answer her questions, instead turning discussion back to the benchmarks raised under Common Core.
"There's no harm in raising the standards," Ellis said. "I just don't think it should be done the way it's being done."
Dickson said officials focus on the standards because that is, in essence, what the Common Core State Standards are. She said the peripheral discussions of socialism — she's heard the standards referred to by opponents as the "Communist" Core — and federal manipulation is little more than political fodder in a campaign season.
"I have yet to hear any of the political comments that are valid," Dickson said. "It's all steeped in fear and not fact."


Well Ms. Dickson here are the facts:

1.        The Governor of Utah has signed Utah on as a governing member of Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC)( - see page 301) whose assessments include psychometric attribute testing of our children.
·         Psychometric testing is “any test used to quantify a particular aspect of a person's mental abilities or mindset–eg, aptitude, intelligence, mental abilities and personality. See IQ test, Personality testing, Psychological testing.”(
EVIDENCE:  Psychometric testing is a violation of Utah law per code section 53A-302. (
EVIDENCE:  Utah is “committed to implement a plan to identify any existing barriers in state law, statute, regulation, or policy to implementing the proposed assessment system and to addressing any such barriers prior to full implementation of the summative assessment components of the system” – (

2.        Membership in SBAC obligates us to work in consensus with 30 other states thus eliminating local control of Utah education.
3.       There are only two organizations, SBAC and PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness of College and Careers), creating assessments for the standards and those groups were funded by the Federal Government.
4.       Utah, along with other states didn’t officially adopt Common Core until being incentivized through the Federal Race to the Top (RTTT) grant process. 
EVIDENCE:  The Whiteboard advisors said, “…the effort gained a great deal of momentum when the Obama Administration included participation in the Common Core as an eligibility criterion for many of the programs created out of the $110 billion stimulus funds. Programs such as Race to the Top rewarded states that not only participated in developing the Common Core, but also adopted them.” (From Education Insider: Common Core Standards and Assessment Coalitions: Whiteboard Advisors)( - pg. 7)
EVIDENCE:  States were given more points for “raising standards” and also for joining a group of states to create assessments.
·         Membership in the assessment groups then required states to adopt Common Core Standards ( – pg. 3
5.        Nearly at the same time as the above RTTT, the Federal Government announced additional incentives with the Race to the Top for Assessments (RTTTA) Funds requiring states to join with other states and create common assessments and standards to receive the prize.
EVIDENCE:  “To be eligible to receive the award an eligible applicant must include a minimum of 15 states.”  ( - pg.12)
EVIDENCE:  “…an eligible applicant must submit assurances from each State that the State will adopt a common set of … standards” (pg. 15)
6.        The Utah State School Board was given a weekend  to sign an Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) which;
a.        Authorized the creation of Common Core Sate Standards
b.      Gave the Federal Government permission to “provide key financial support for this effort in developing a common core of state standards and in moving toward common assessments, such as through the Race to the Top Fund. ( pg. 90)
EVIDENCE:  Dr. Hales presented the information about developing Common Standards to the Board on May 1, 2009 and “Indicated that they would like us to sign a MOU on Monday [May 4th] if we are going to participate.”

7.       The Utah State School Board recognized Common Core Standards as National Standards from the beginning as is noted in the State School Board Minutes from April 2009.
EVIDENCE:   “WestEd which is an arm of the US Department of Education has askedfor some that are in that [American Diploma Project ADP] to come together to create some common standards.   All is coming to a peak moment with the stimulus package for national common standards. 
On April 17 Board Leadership has approved her [Superintendent Harrington] travel to visit with CCSSO and the expectation is that Utah might sign a Memorandum of Understanding that we might begin the dialogue.  It will not commit her [Superintendent Harrington] or the Board but would add Utah to the states that are interested in understanding on how we might develop common standards. 
It was clarified that the national standards would focus around language arts and math.”
8.        The Utah State School Board hastily and negligently signed our state up for the Common Core Initiative which included SBAC in an effort to receive money from a Federal grant.
EVIDENCE:  “Part of our Race to the Top Application was participation in a Common Assessment Consortium - Associate Superintendent Judy Park reported that states are scrambling to see who they want to align themselves with or partner with.  Because the federal government required we declare what consortium you were in we were under an impossible deadline.  To make it work we all agreed we would do a Non-binding MOU’s into a Consortium.  Utah along with many other states signed on to multiple consortiums.”  State School Board Meeting Feb. 2010
·          Three of the consortiums joined together forming SBAC and we later signed a binding MOU

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Dear Teachers and Schools,

April 15, 2012
Dear Teachers and Schools,

I'm a Utah teacher.  I've taught 3rd grade for two years, high school English for five years, and college English at Utah Valley University for two years.  Teachers often stay neutral on political issues. But the Common Core Initiative affects what millions of children will be taught and what future educators will be able to teach for many years to come, not only in Utah but in a majority of U.S. states.
I'm concerned about Utah educators' sustained freedom under the rules of the Common Core Initiative (CCI) and its testing arm, the SBAC. The experimental educational ideas of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS standards) --not identical to Utah's current version of Common Core-- come with few benefits and CCI has many long term liabilities to local freedom and values.
As an English teacher, I dislike the way the CCSS standards dramatically slash the percentage of classic literature permitted to be taught (to be replaced with info-texts). You might be thinking:  "but Utah uses the Utah Common Core, not the CCSS standards; so who cares?" Hold on; I will explain below how Utah's standards won't matter by 2015 in the "WestEd" paragraph below.
We Can Keep What We Like About CCI:
Many teachers do not realize that all the new standards that Utah started to implement this year were available in public domain; we did not need Common Core.  If we choose to sever ties with the Common Core Initiative and its testing arm to ensure freedom from federal or consortia controls, we are still free to use anything that's in the public domain, including the standards of Common Core.  But we should write standards under our own sovereign state power, as the Constitution requires. (If you are thinking:  "But this is a state-led initiative, not a federal initiative," hold on.  I will explain below, how the state-led claim is  technically true but not functionally true.)
The marketing of Common Core has been so excellent that very few people question it.  I attended last week's State School Board meeting and realized that even at the administrative and state level, very few people have taken time to read the legally binding documents of Common Core and its accompanying testing and data collection arm, that I have studied.  These documents testify that Utah has given up her freedom over education, yet I feel alone in my sense of urgency to investigate this issue.  (Documents attached if you care to read them)
Common versus Sovereign:
As a high school English teacher, I loved "Harrison Bergeron" by Kurt Vonnegut, a short story that begins as if it were introducing 2012 and the Common Core Initiative:
"THE YEAR WAS 2081, and everybody was finally equal. They weren't only equal before God and the law. They were equal every which way. Nobody was smarter than anybody else. Nobody was better looking than anybody else. Nobody was stronger or quicker than anybody else. All this equality was due to the 211th, 212th, and 213th Amendments to the Constitution, and to the unceasing vigilance of agents of the United States Handicapper General."
 Like the society in "Harrison Bergeron," Utah has volunteered to be bound to in-commonness at the expense of freedom and innovation.  Utah has agreed to a system of nationalized standards and assessments in which Utah has little or no voice. Utah must submit to the consensus of a consortium of states on key educational decisions. There are many ways in which Common Core impacts Utah's sovereignty over educational decisions.
There's ample proof that Utah has given away her own freedom  over education to federal and consortium control.  There is evidence (see "WestEd" below) that the current "Utah Common Core" will be swapped for the non-amendable CCSS.  The federal CCSS will rule, bringing with it the already determined slashes to the percentage of allowable classic literature (in favor of info texts) and other yet-to-be-determined changes, not amendable by us. There is no way for Utah or any state to control what is contained in, or will change in, the CCSS.
Federal Control:
The Common Core Initiative is a movement that claims to be completely free of federal controls, claims to be a "state-led" raising of educational standards, and claims to promote college readiness.
As you know, Utah joined CCI in 2009 and implementation will be complete in 2015. But did you know that Utah did not seek out CCI?  We joined both CCI and SBAC because the federal government incentivized it. Joining meant we got more points toward winning a competitive grant called Race to the Top.  We didn't win that grant-- not a penny-- but we are still bound to CCI and SBAC.  South Carolina Senator Mike Fair calls this error that South Carolina, Utah and other states made, a selling of our educational birthright without even getting the mess of pottage.  It's hard to sever ties.  In fact, you need (among many other things) federal approval to withdraw.
Common Core requires states to accept common standards, to which states may only add 15% more. (But that 15% will never be tested by the common test).
The U.S. Dept. of Education funded (and works closely with) each group that played a role in developing the national standards and both consortia contracted to write tests to CCSS standards. The U.S. DOE closely supervises data collected by the tests. The groups who did this educational work (that the federal government was not constitutionally  allowed to do) were groups paid by federal grants. They include West Ed, Achieve, Inc., The National Governors' Association, and the Council of Chief State School Officers. The U.S. DOE holds tight control over the tests and has requirements for each group of states to coordinate tests "across consortia," to give status updates and to provide access to information about the tests to the U.S. DOE on "an ongoing basis." (See "SBAC Cooperative Agreement.")
The standards themselves are not unquestionably high across disciplines.  Texas opted out of Common Core because it had higher math standards already and didn't want the 3 billion dollar implementation cost of adding Common Core. Massachusetts actually lowered state math standards by joining Common Core. Professor Sandra Stotsky, who served on the Common Core Validation Committee, refused to sign off that the English standards were authentic for college prep. Stanford Professor Michael Kirst said: "the standards for college and career readiness are essentially the same. This implies the answer is yes to the question of whether the same standards are appropriate for 4 year universities, 2 year colleges, and technical colleges. The burden of proof for this assertion rests with CCSSO/NGA, and the case is not proven".
The CCSS are common, one-size-fits-all standards that restrict local innovation, and the ability to further raise standards, regardless of whether the standards are currently higher or lower. The tests that go with the standards don't allow local innovating either. Since educational standards and decisions are meaningless without political freedom, there is little sense in analyzing whether the Utah Common Core standards are now better or worse;  Utah can't control any aspect of the CCSS.

There are two sets of standards (Utah Common Core & Common Core State Standards) that Utah will need to choose between and only the first  has an amendment process. See "WestEd" below.
SBAC is the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium.  Utah belongs to this group, but the state in charge (and the fiscal agent) is Washington State.  Although Utah received no money from the Race to the Top grant, collectively the SBAC did win a grant to develop a testing system. Utah is bound to obey the terms of the SBAC's grant which include many freedom-closing mandates and expensive requirements. As a condition of the grant, all member states must adopt the Common Core (CCSS federal standards) No analysis has been done by Utah on CCI/SBAC implementation costs.
USOE,  the Utah State Office of Education, is a powerful office. Yet the USOE did not legally analyze Common Core; it was flatly accepted as true doctrine.  A USOE lawyer told me a few days ago that she thought that the "Cooperative Agreement" I referred her to didn't exist or was a hoax.  After I sent her the PDF, she then changed her response and said she disagreed with my interpretation of it.
The same USOE lawyer answered my question: "Why is there no amendment process for the CCSS standards?" by saying: "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'."  So freedom is not a priority to the USOE legal team.
The day after she wrote me that email, a directive went out at the USOE that no one (the legal department included) was allowed to answer further questions from me, a Utah teacher asking appropriate questions. They were told to direct me to the Public Relations department. So then I wrote to the Utah Attorney General for help and am still waiting for his response.
Another teacher, a friend, and I visited the Governor in his office two weeks ago to plead with him to reject Common Core.  We talked, gave him a binder and a jump drive containing evidence that federal control and consortia-control of Common Core jeopardized Utah's educational freedoms, and asked him to sever ties with CCI and SBAC.  He said we were confusing him and promised to have us back in three weeks with Superintendent Shumway and his lawyer in the room.  (I can keep you posted.)
WestEd  - As the project manager/test writer for the SBAC, WestEd holds an important role in the CCI.  I wrote a letter to WestEd in which I inquired, "Please help me understand how the individual standards of a member state of SBAC will still be relevant in light of the fact that all the SBAC states take the same test. For example, if  Colorado added 15% more calculus to their math standards than the federal standards had, while Utah added 15%  more geometry, how will those individual state standards be addressed by the test?  If the WestEd's test contains neither Colorado's calculus nor Utah's geometry, because their standards were actually higher than those of the federal government's, how will the test benefit the SBAC states?"
WestEd replied, " If a state chooses to add their state-specific 15% to the Consortium test, then that additional information can be included in their  local reporting, but is not considered the Smarter Balanced test.  In order for this system to have a real impact within a state the state will need to adopt the Common Core State Standards (i.e., not have two sets of standards). As a condition of the grant, all member states participating in the assessment must adopt the Common Core."
Did you catch that?  "…Not have two sets of standards".  What happens when states want to compete for high scores on a common test?  They will need to teach to the same set of standards that the test uses.
Why haven't we been told more about Common Core?  Hypothesis:  Superintendent Larry Shumway sits on the board of WestEd. He also sits on two of the boards that contracted the development of the CCSS standards. It's not strange that he has not provided transparency for Utahns about Common Core's mandates and costs.
A Spiral of Silence 
Marketing of Common Core has been target-specific. The national PTA received a two million dollar donation to actively promote Common Core. But CCI proponents didn't promote it outside the school system and CCI was never up for public vote or legislative input. It slid under taxpayer, parental, and legislative radar.  The Governor told my friend he did not recall having signed it.  He probably trusted those around him to do their homework.
Even though CCI was funded by, and is largely controlled by, the federal government, it was labeled a "state-led initiative." The federal government paid groups to do what it was not constitutionally permitted to do.  The Congressional Budget Office never could do a cost analysis and the taxpaying public was kept in the dark. Remember, the Constitution and G.E.P.A. laws clearly forbid the federal government from controlling or making decisions related to states' education.
If teachers or administrators don't like CCI,  they don't dare speak against it because it's been handed down as an unassailable doctrine of raising school standards. They fear losing their jobs by speaking out.
There is a survey that must be taken by anyone hoping to apply as a candidate for the Utah State School Board.  The very first question is:  "Do you support Common Core?" Can anyone who does not agree with Common Core be elected to the State School Board?
Fight for Educational Freedom
The Common Core question comes down to this: would Utah rather have education in common with a majority of other states, under the partial or full control of others' ideas about what is good for our kids, or would Utah prefer to have sovereignty to make educational decisions?
A great American, Ezra Benson, said: "I say to you with all the fervor of my soul that God intended men to be free. Rebellion against tyranny is a righteous cause. It is an enormous evil for any man to be enslaved to any system contrary to his own will… once freedom is lost, only blood –human blood – will win it back."
There is a petition that Utahns are signing to sever ties with CC/SBAC.   Links to documentable evidence are available at and (my own blog) as well as at
Please consider the long term impacts of Common Core and let your Utah School Board, Superintendent Shumway, and Governor Herbert know how you feel.  Now is our window of opportunity.  If we wait, we'll be too financially and in other ways invested to withdraw from Common Core.
Thank you for your time.
Christel Swasey
Utah Teacher