Two Moms Against Common Core

Friday, November 15, 2013

High school student Ethan Young knocks down Common Core!

 Powerful testimony opposing Common Core from a high school student in Tennessee.  Thank you Ethan Young for inspiring many and giving people across the nation hope in the future of America.

Read or watch below.

In a mere 5 minutes, I hope to provide insightful comments about a variety of educational topics. I sincerely hope you disprove the research I've compiled.

Here's a history of the Common Core: in 2009, the National Governors' Association and Council of Chief State Officers partnered with Achieve, Inc., a nonprofit that received million in funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Thus,the initiative *seemed* to spring from states, when, in reality, it was contrived by an insular group of educational executives, with only 2 academic content specialists. Neither content specialist approved the final standards,and the English consultant, Dr. Sandra Stotsky, publicly stated she felt the standards left students with an "empty skill set," lacking literary knowledge. While educators and administrators were later included in the validation committee and feedback groups, they did not play a role in the actual drafting of the standards. The product is a "rigorous preparation for career and college," yet many educators agree that "rigorous" is a buzzword. These standards aren't rigorous, just different, designed for an industrial model of school. Nevertheless, Common Core emerged. Keep in mind,the specific standards were never voted upon by Congress, the Department of Education, state or local governments. Yet, their implementation was approved by 49 states and territories. The president essentially bribed states into implementation via Race to The Top, offering 4.35 billion taxpayer dollars to participating states, $500 million of which went to Tennessee. And, much like No Child Left Behind, the program promises national testing and a one-size-fits-all education because, hey, it worked really well the first time[laughter from audience].

While I do admire some aspects of the Core, such as fewer standards and an emphasis on application in writing, it's not going to fix our academic deficit. If nothing else, these standards are a glowing conflict of interest, and they lack the research they allegedly received. And most importantly, the standards illustrate a mistrust of teachers, something I believe this county has already felt for a while [cheers and applause]. I've been fortunate enough to have incredible educators that open my eyes to the joy of learning, and I love them like my family; I respect them entirely. Which is why it frustrates me to {I didn't really understand this part, even though I played it over and over.Maybe it'll sound familiar to you} review the team in Apex Evaluation Systems(???). These subjective anxiety-producers do more to damage a teacher's self-esteem than you realize [cheers, applause]. Erroneous evaluation, coupled with strategic compensation, presents a punitive model that, as a student, is like watching your teacher jump through flaming hoops to earn a score. Have we forgotten the nature of a classroom? A teacher cannot be evaluated without his students, because, as a craft, teaching is an interaction. Thus, how can you expect to gauge a teacher's success with no control for students' participation or interest? I stand before you because I care about education, but also because I want to support my teachers. And just as they fought for my academic achievement, so I want to fight for their ability to teach. This relationship is at the heart of instruction, yet there will never be a system by which it is accurately measured.

But I want to take a step back. We can argue the details ad infinitum, yet I observe a much broader issue with education today. Standards-based education is ruining the way we teach and learn. Yes, I've already been told by legislators and administrators, "Ethan that's just the way things work." But why? I'm going to answer that question. It's bureaucratic *convenience* [scattered applause]. It works with nuclear reactors, it works with business models, why can't it work with students? I mean, how convenient, calculating exactly who knows what and who needs what. I mean, why don't we just manufacture robots instead of students? They last longer, and they always do what they're told.But education is unlike any other institute in our government. The task of learning is *never* quantifiable. If everything I learned in high school was  objective, I haven't learned *anything*. I'd like to repeat that. If everything I learned in high school is a quantifiable objective, I haven't learned anything. Creativity, appreciation, inquisitiveness; these are impossible to scale, but they're the purpose of education. Why our teachers teach, why I choose to learn. And today we find ourselves in a nation that produces workers. Everything is career and college preparation. Somewhere our Founding Fathers are turning in their graves, pleading, screaming, and trying to say to us that we teach to *free minds*. We teach to inspire. We teach to equip. The careers will come naturally. I know we're just one city in a huge system that excitedly embraces numbers, but ask any of these teachers, ask any of my peers, and ask yourselves, "Haven't we gone too far with data?"[cheers, applause]

I attended tonight's meetings to share my critiques, but as Benjamin Franklin quipped, "Any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain, and most fools do." The problems that I cite are very real, and I ask only that you hear them out, investigate them, and do not dismiss them as another fool's criticisms. I'll close with a quote of Jane L. Stanford, that Dr. McIntyre shared in a recent speech: "You have my entire confidence in your ability to do conscientious work to the very best advantage to the students, that they may be considered paramount to all and everything else." We're capable of fixing education, and I commit myself to that task. But you cannot ignore me,my teachers, or the truth. We need change, but not Common Core, high-stakes evaluations, or more robots. Thank you.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Tighter Attendance Laws Lead to Unintended Consequences...

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Illogical Politics: Letter Re: My Concerns With Common Core

Illogical Politics: Letter Re: My Concerns With Common Core: Dear Governor Herbert, Utah State School Board, State  Superintendent  Menlove, Attorney General Swallow, State Legislators, Local School B...

Brilliant letter by UT parent about Common Core!

Letter Re: My Concerns With Common Core

Dear Governor Herbert, Utah State School Board, State Superintendent Menlove, Attorney General Swallow, State Legislators, Local School Boards, et al.:

As an involved parent, I am extremely concerned about the work my children are bringing home as a result of the Utah Common Core State Standards (“CCSS”). Below you will find some of my concerns.

First, my children are NOT merely bricks in a wall. They are unique and wonderful children! They have different strengths and weaknesses. My daughter - like her lawyer father - is more geared towards language, words, reading and logic. My son - like his college-educated mother - is more gifted in mathematics and science. My third son is a healthy mixture of the two. My daughter prefers to learn through practical examples and illustrations while my six year-old son likes to learn through straightforward facts and numbers. We cannot successfully parent and teach each of them the same way, so how do you propose that CCSS can successfully teach them and their unique classmates in the exact same manner?

Second, my children are overwhelmed with the amount of busy homework they have to complete when they get home from school. To begin with, the kids are awake from about 8:00 am to 9:00 pm. Of those 13 waking hours they are at school from 9:00 to 4:00. Then when they get home, they read for 25 minutes and take about 27 minutes to complete homework - and they are in 1st and 3rd grade! I’ll make this really simple using the “Lattice Method”: there are 60 minutes in one hour and the kids are awake for 13 hours, so they are awake for 3x0 + 3x6 + 0x1 + 6x1 / / / hours. They spend 0x7 + 7x7 + 0x0 + 7x0 / / / at school. Then, they spend 25 + (27 + 3 = 30) = 45 - 3 = 42 minutes doing homework. That only leaves 780 (+20 to round to 800) minutes minus 420 (subtract 20 to round to 400) minus 42 (subtract 2 to round to 40) minutes to spend with their family and to just be kids and learn on their own. Yeah, that’s 800 - 400 = 400 minus 20 = 380 minus 20 = 360 minus 42 homework minutes (subtract 2 to round to 40) equals 320 minus 2 to get to 318 free minutes. It would be one thing if the homework stimulated their brains or if the work was preparing them for the real world, but it is full of mindless estimations and backward mathematical methods.

Third [I will give you 30 seconds to read this paragraph. If you do not read it in 30 seconds, you are not up to MY standards], there is an over-utilization of timed reading in the curriculum.  When I was in elementary school, I learned to read and comprehend what I was reading. I don’t know how many words I could read in a minute at each level, but I learned to read at a comfortable pace, while absorbing the material I was reading. Is there some time-sensitive aspect of the “global economy” that I don’t understand? I have lived in Southeast Asia and all over the United States, I have completed 20 years of education and have passed a Bar exam; I do not remember ever benefiting from being able to read something at the fastest pace possible with there being no inherent penalties/drawbacks for lack of comprehension. Why is this so important to state standards? You may have read this paragraph in 30 seconds, but did you comprehend it? It matters.

Fourth, as I mentioned above, I have lived in Asia and I have witnessed many of the school systems there. The students are generally sharp, disciplined and dedicated to their work. The work usually requires almost exclusively memorization and regurgitation. I often hear that the Asian education system is so wonderful and America is way behind in education because the kids in Asia score well on tests, but I don’t see a lot of innovation coming from those countries. Sure, they build iPhones and iPads efficiently and they produce many great products, but I don’t recall many breakthroughs coming from Asia. Am I wrong? They are good at following instructions and reproducing results, but I have found a huge inability to think outside the box, to interpret unique data, and to understand context. In my experience, many of them (generally) are followers, but not thinkers. Why would you want to create students like that here in America? It’s almost as if you are trying to create a generation of followers and not thinkers…

Fifth, I have an assignment for you. Assume that the Constitution of the United States is outdated and needs to be changed (that shouldn’t be too hard for some of you). You - a Federal government agency - want to develop a one-size-fits-all education system for the entire Nation, but the Constitution does not specifically grant that right to your agency. What would you add or take away from the Constitution in order to make this new standard system of education constitutional? You will need to prioritize, prune and add text to turn your system into a constitutionally acceptable form of education. Then, propose a plan for how to get States to go along with your education program. Money is not an issue; you can promise them as much money as it takes, but you must get them signed up. Your proposal will be submitted in its final form as a persuasive presentation to the American people. They have been given the important individual charge - by their Creator - to educate their own children and, having partially delegated that responsibility to local school districts, will judge your proposal based on the validity and veracity of your arguments as to whether you have any right and/or ability to educate their children in the manner proposed. Your score will not be shared with you. We will keep your proposal in our database for future reference.

Sixth, suppose you are the Governor of Utah and in your 2012 gubernatorial election you received 624,678 votes, or 68.4%. Further suppose that during the Republican convention, you received 2,253 votes, or 57.67%. Now suppose that since your election your supporters, who oppose Common Core at the federal and state level, discover that you support Common Core at one or both of those levels. Suppose that these supporters are very serious about the education of their children and do not approve of their elected leaders supporting such a massive, radical form of standardized education. If (let’s put our estimation hats on) half of those supporters become former supporters and choose to vote for one of your Republican challengers instead of you, how many people would still support you in the convention and, if you survive the convention, how many Utahans would turn out to vote for you in the next election? The number is not important. The WHY is everything. As long as you understand WHY, maybe, just maybe you will survive in the Utah - not global - economy.

Thank you for your time and attention to our concerns. As parents of OUR children, my wife and I have the ultimate responsibility for educating OUR children and preparing them for the future. We take OUR responsibility very seriously. You, as public “servants,” work for US. If you do not serve the good of OUR children, we will relieve you of your post or we will remove our children from your collective, destructive influence.

Your Bosses,
The Halls

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Common Core the "Quiet Revolution"

Our children are precious and must be protected.

In 1969 Ezra T. Benson wrote, "From the very beginning of recorded political thought, man has realized the importance of education as a tremendous potential for both good and evil.”

There is a constant battle for the hearts, minds and souls of our children.

Nelson Mandela acknowledged that Education “is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

But whose vision of the world will we as parents and citizens let stand? 

Who will determine our future?

Abraham Lincoln is attributed with stating “The philosophy of the school room in one generation will be the philosophy of government in the next.”

What philosophy will prevail in America?

Secretary Arne Duncan said,

“In March of 2009, President Obama called on the nation’s governors and state school chiefs to “develop standards and assessments …
Virtually everyone thought the President was dreaming.
 But today, 37 states and the District of Columbia have already chosen to adopt the new state-crafted Common Core standards in math and English. Not studying it, not thinking about it, not issuing white paper, they have actually done it.” 
This speech was given in 2010 to UNESCO the United Nations education arm. The number of 37 states has now increased to 47.

In this same speech the secretary acknowledges that America is now in the midst of a “quiet revolution” in school reform.

This is precisely why last year when ACHIEVE surveyed the voting populous 79% of them had heard nothing or not much about the Common Core. We’ve spent the last year and half doing everything in our power to change those figures. This quiet revolution is no longer silent.

There is opposition cropping up across the Nation and the momma bears are just getting started. This map shows states where there is significant push-back against these reforms.

Common core is being sold to us as simply a set of standards in math and ELA but I’m here to tell you that there was indeed a quiet revolution taking place and the standards were just one piece of a much larger education reform that the current administration touts as its “cradle-to-career” reform agenda.

If you go to White and look at the k-12 education plan you’ll see the President’s plans for reforming education. He calls this his cradle to career education reform to “fundamentally” transform education in America. Now I’m not saying education doesn’t need help but have we paid attention to who’s telling us we’re failing?

The international test most often cited is called the PISA. They’re a product of the OECD who is partnered with the United Nation whose stated goal is Universal Education for All. In 2010 they gave the United States a report where they studied 10 other countries to help America out with our education woes.

A red flag popped up when I was looking over Germany’s report. “Germany was jolted into action when PISA 2000 revealed below-average performance and large social disparities in results” As I read the report and saw that after being told they were failing the council of Foreign Ministers got together and decided they needed Common standards and common assessments to align with the standard. Robust data was needed and teacher improvement. These sound eerily similar to what we’re implementing here in America. Germany also agreed to continue with ongoing international tests to determine their countries success.

It’s not a secret that when you tie high stakes to a test it drives the curriculum. Now remind me, do we want our children to become global citizens or to retain American exceptionalism?

You may have heard that the Federal Government was not involved and that they hijacked this movement but from the very beginning of 2009 that is not the case. They highly coerced, incentivized and threatened the states to go along with their education reform.

These same reforms are in every grant and the waiver from No Child Left Behind issued by the Federal Government. There was a plan.

Secretary Duncan said, “… the Obama administration has an ambitious and unified theory of action that propels our agenda. … It can only be accomplished with a clear, coherent, and coordinated vision of reform.”

Now I can’t give President Obama all the blame.

The plan to centralize education is not new to the Obama administration. In fact, this move toward nationalized standards started long ago and moved further forward under President Bush with No Child Left Behind. It was then propelled forward through massive private money and stimulus funds.

Once the current President took office things really took off and the majority of states made commitments to the standards BEFORE they were even written because they were rushing to get Race to the Top funds. If the golden carrot wasn’t incentive enough for the states the threat of losing federal $$ to which the states have become addicted was.

We are coming up against a hard deadline in America.

How many of you are perfect? Did you realize that under President Bush’s NCLB that schools must show 100% proficiency by 2014 or they risk losing Federal money for education? The states are desperate to get out of a bad law and would do almost anything to get out from under the oppression but what most don’t realize the oppression yet to come will dwarf what was felt under No Child Left Behind. When you put all the pieces of the education reform puzzle together we lose control of education at a local level. The data collected by testing the standards and tied to the teacher’s performance acts as an enforcer to make sure the agenda moves forward.

In 2010 Secretary Duncan said “… our theory of action starts with the four assurances incorporated in last year’s economic stimulus bill, …. The four assurances got their name from the requirement that each governor in the 50 states had to provide an “assurance” they would pursue reforms in these four areas--in exchange for their share of funds from a Recovery Act program …”

Secretary Duncan is referring here to the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund which had to be approved prior to even being considered for Race to the Top money. UT received roughly $900 million dollars from the stimulus bill in education alone. Did really pay attention to what we were agreeing to?

Secretary Duncan acknowledged that “Traditionally, the federal government in the U.S. has had a limited role in education policy.”

“The Obama administration has sought to fundamentally shift the federal role...”

Ezra Taft Benson said:
"The best way to prevent a political faction or any small group of people from capturing control of the nation's educational system is to keep it decentralized into small local units, each with its own board of education and superintendent. This may not be as efficient as one giant super educational system but it is far more safe.” 
Common Core was initiated by private interest in Washington DC without proper representation from the states. The National Governor’s Association and Council of Chief State school officers may sound like official government organizations but they are not. They are private trade organizations that are not transparent nor held accountable to the people. The Governor’s sit on boards they do not run the show there. In fact, both organizations receive money from the federal government as well as private entities. States pay dues to both the NGA and the CCSSO and then these private organizations turn around and lobby the states to push forth their agenda.

We all need to take a look at how things are run in our country and decide if we want our government run by a bunch of trade groups or if we want it to continue to be through the voice of the people. We have an ever moving trend towards circumventing the Constitution and our founding principles.

Common Core was a triumph of branding. There were over a hundred endorsing partners. I mean who wants to be accused of not wanting high learning standards for our children? Who doesn’t want their children to excel?

The largest funder is the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation. This foundation has spent millions and millions of dollars pushing their education reform ideas. To date they have poured over 175 million dollars into this initiative and last week Gates said, he hopes his education goals work but we won’t know for at least a decade. Our children ARE NOT guinea pigs.

Achieve, who is also a non-governmental agency, partnered these two trade groups to help draft the Common Core state standards.

One of these is not like the other.

On your left we have what the proper balance of government powers is supposed to look like where 3 branches of government work together but each stand independently creating a system of checks and balances. On your right you’ll see the system which brought us Common Core. The National Governor’s Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers acted as brokers between private interest groups, such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Federal executive branch, namely the appointed Secretary of Education, and the State level executive branch including the Governors and their State Superintendents of education with little to no input from the state’s legislators. This isn’t the way America is supposed to be running.

What we've got here is private entities colluding with government to push policy. I love the capitalist market but this is not that.

Bill Gates may very well be a nice man, wouldn't know, haven't met him, but I DIDN'T elect him and neither did you. Just because he made a lot of money doesn't mean he is allowed to buy education in America. This is too much power for one individual. I didn't elect Jeb Bush either and he is also having massive influence in how our schools are running. America wasn't set up to be governed this way. Think about it...

The Homeschool legal defense reminds us that
“America rose to greatness when education was utterly decentralized and widely considered to be beyond the competence of government. One might reasonably wonder why educational planners do not consider a return to that which has proven successful in the past rather than pursue a trend of their own making. “ “The philosophy of the Common Core is not revealed in the individual standards. Many forms of education would result in the acquisition of similar individual items of knowledge and skill. The philosophy that is antithetical to many is revealed in the broad purposes and the coercive uniformity of the Common Core.” HSLDA 
So for us it doesn’t matter whether the standard’s quality is good or bad. The standards experts can have fun debating that until they’re blue in the face. We are not and will not ever be for national standards because it centralizes power whether it’s to the federal government or private entities it doesn’t matter. But in this situation we have both.

But it’s for the kids. Not true – A monopoly is being built. This monopoly not only brings in big money but it is a monopoly of thought. Where common core is deemed as the savior of the education system in America but really the results of these massive reforms is control and ultimately will help destroy America if we don’t stand up and do something about it. These reforms are creating a single pathway to higher Ed. It isn’t good enough to simply pull our kids out of school. We MUST fight this.

If we let this stand, we effectively alter the way government is run in America. Working around the representative form of government will become the new norm which effectively wipes out the voice of “We the People”. We can’t let this happen.

Professor Charles Glenn of Boston University says this about the goals of centralized education…
How can the pluralism that we claim to value, the liberty that we prize, be reconciled with a “state pedagogy” designed to serve state purposes? Is there not wisdom in John Stuart Mill's remark that “all that has been said of the importance of individuality of character, and diversity of opinions and modes of conduct, involves, as of the same unspeakable importance diversity of education. A general state education is a mere contrivance for molding people to be exactly like one another…in proportion as it is efficient and successful, it establishes a despotism over the mind.1 Charles Leslie Glenn, Jr., The Myth of the Common School (Oakland: ICS Press, 2002), 12. 
Ezra T. Benson wrote,
 “…In a free and open society such as ours, a well-rounded education is an essential for the preservation of freedom against the chicanery and demagoguery of aspiring tyrants who would have us ignorantly vote ourselves into bondage. On the other hand, should the educational system ever fall into the hands of the in-power political faction or into the hands of an obscure but tightly-knit group of professional social reformers, it could be used, not to educate, but to indoctrinate." 
We’re seeing examples on social media sites of this daily. I call this a positive consequence of parents waking up and paying attention to what is being taught.

However, expect to see a lot more curriculum that doesn’t match the values of your local community as the control of education leaves the local community and as Bill Gates says, “a uniform customer base” is created. Anytime you centralize power you remove the voice of the parents and citizens at the local level.

So why are we doing all of this?

What is the purpose of these reforms? Is it to make sure our children succeed or that the workforce is fully staffed?

There has been a push for quite some time to an outcome based approach to education.  Last summer Secretary Duncan shared that “ the President has established a bold goal for our nation…. And to achieve that goal he has proposed $1 billion dollars toward career academies. And to achieve this goal he’s launched a comprehensive cradle-to-career reform agenda.”

Remember the President called on the governors to help him achieve his plan?

He also asked the Governors to create a vision 2020 plan and our state of UT gladly accepted the challenge because after all it sounds great to have more children graduating from college and being prepared for their career. As a mother of 7 I want nothing but the best for my children.

This brought Prosperity 2020 to UT whose stated goal is to align the education training to the workforce demands of the marketplace. This is called central planning and it certainly NOT the America I want for my children. 

In 2011 I witnessed this first hand when sitting down with my high school son and his counselor. What mother wouldn’t want to hear that her son is brilliant and capable of the highest paying jobs in America? I certainly was proud and trusted the system and so when the counselor told me that clearly my son was not going to be a history professor and so let’s pull him out of AP world history and put him in a class that follows his career path. I gladly agreed until one day I woke up and realized what was happening to America.

When did we decide that it was okay for the government to collude with business and claim such a determining role in the education, attitudes, and career paths of our children?

We need to all wake up and then study up, speak up and stand up to save our freedom in this great country.

Let us all remember the wise words of Dallin H. Oaks.
 “I cannot speak for the welfare of children without implications for the choices being made by citizens, public officials, and workers in private organizations. … Children are highly vulnerable. They have little or no power to protect or provide for themselves and little influence on so much that is vital to their well-being. Children need others to speak for them, and they need decision makers who put their well-being ahead of selfish adult interests.” 

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Adding Source Docs

Due to the Department of Ed's website being down, I decided to upload the source docs I've saved. Look for a source tab on the right of my postings. And in the meantime you'll have to put up with a lot of boring posts. ;)

NGA's Implementation Guide

NGA = National Governor's Association

MOU for Common Core

MOU = Memorandum of Understanding This is Utah specific but is the same for all states.

ACHIEVE's Common Core Implementation Guide

Pay particular attention to the 15% guideline beginning on page 22. Further, if you feel like you keep hearing the same talking points every time you speak with a public official, pay attention to the communications and outreach section beginning on page 29.

Race to the Top Executive Summary

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Glenn Beck on Common Core 3-27-2013

If you missed Glenn Beck's show on Common Core earlier today here are the highlights. I am so amazed at the concise description Glenn was able to give. Once again, I am thrilled to see this issue finally getting national attention. Thank you Glenn and Michelle!!

 Dr. Thompson didn't get to share much of his research. Take a minute to read his important findings about what the schools can collect on your children. Read now

What does common standards mean?

I've been collecting the definitions off of various government documents relating to the Common Core.

I thought I'd share them in light of the fact that elected officials are telling citizens that the 15% requirement is gone now that UT is out of Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC). Unfortunately, they are mistaken because the definition has been put in place across many documents. The most recent document is from the NCLB waiver.

Our State Office sites a letter from Arne Duncan stating that UT can set our own standards.  He's absolutely right we can but this letter was received before UT applied for the NCLB waiver.  Further, what constitutes Utah's standards?  Is it the 15% that we add in addition to the copyrighted standards?  If you look at the State Office of Education's standards page and scroll down to page three of the ELA standards you'll see these are not Utah's standards.

Don't believe me?  Take a look for yourself:

These are screenshots from "Utah's core" standards a.k.a. Common Core State Standards

1.  Here is where I went to search for the English Language Art Standards:

When I clicked on the link this is what I saw.  At first glance these really do look like UT owns them.

This is page two.  Same story...

From page three:
Notice who owns them.  And we had to get permission to modify them.
I emailed the associate superintendent to ask who we had to get permission from and what exactly we modified.  Once again, my email went unanswered.

I've asked our Governor, State Superintendent and various other officials at the state level if they can write another letter to Secretary Arne Duncan asking if UT can be exempt from the NCLB waiver definition page. My request has gone unanswered...

Here are the definitions (if you don't want to read them all... please scroll down to the bottom and look at the NCLB waiver definitions - UT is bound to this document):

Race to the Top Fund Assessment Program

Definitions page 30
Achievement standard means the level of student achievement on summative assessments that indicates that (a) for the final high school summative assessments in mathematics or English language arts, a student is college- and career-ready (as defined in this notice); or (b) for summative assessments in mathematics or English language arts at a grade level other than the final high school summative assessments, a student is on track to being college- and career-ready (as defined in this notice).   An achievement standard must be determined using empirical evidence over time.

College- and career-ready (or readiness) means, with respect to a student, that the student is prepared for success, without remediation, in credit- bearing entry-level courses in an IHE (as defined in section 101(a) of the HEA), as demonstrated by an assessment score that meets or exceeds the achievement standard (as defined in this notice) for the final high school summative assessment in mathematics or English language arts.

Common set of college- and career- ready standards means a set of academic content standards for grades K–12 that (a) define what a student must know and be able to do at each grade level; (b) if mastered, would ensure that the student is college- and career-ready (as defined in this notice) by the time of high school graduation; and (c) are substantially identical across all States in a consortium. A State may supplement the common set of college- and career-ready standards with additional content standards, provided that the additional standards do not comprise more than 15 percent of the State’s total standards for that content area. 

On track to being college- and career- ready 13 means, with respect to a student, that the student is performing at or above grade level such that the student will be college- and career-ready (as defined in this notice) by the time of high school graduation, as demonstrated by an assessment score that meets or exceeds the achievement standard (as defined in this notice) for the student’s grade level on a summative assessment in mathematics or English language arts.

Performance level descriptor means a statement or description of a set of knowledge and skills exemplifying a level of performance associated with a standard.

Student achievement data means data regarding an individual student’s mastery of tested content standards. Student achievement data from summative assessment components must be reported in a way that can be reliably aggregated across multiple students at the subgroup, 14 classroom, school, LEA, and State levels.

Student growth data means data regarding the change in student achievement data (as defined in this notice) between two or more points in time. Student growth data from summative assessment components must be reported in a way that can be reliably aggregated across multiple students at the subgroup, classroom, school, LEA, and State levels and over a full academic year or course.

Race to the Top

Common set of K-12 standards means a set of content standards that define what students must know and be able to do and that are substantially identical across all States in a consortium. A State may supplement the common standards with additional standards, provided that the additional standards do not exceed 15 percent of the State's total standards for that content area.

Student achievement means
(a) For tested grades and subjects:
(1) a student’s score on the State’s assessments under the ESEA; and, as appropriate,
(2) other measures of student learning, such as those described in paragraph
(b) of this definition, provided they are rigorous and comparable across classrooms.
(b) For non-tested grades and subjects: alternative measures of student learning and performance such as student scores on pre-tests and end-of-course tests; student performance on English language proficiency assessments; and other measures of student achievement that are rigorous and comparable across classrooms. 

Student growth means the change in student achievement (as defined in this notice) for an individual student between two or more points in time. A State may also include other measures that are rigorous and comparable across classrooms.

Race to the Top Phase 2

Common set of K–12 standards means a set of content standards that define what students must know and be able to do and that are substantially identical

Highly effective teacher means a teacher whose students achieve high rates (e.g., one and one-half grade levels in an academic year) of student growth (as defined in this notice). Sates, LEAs, or schools must include multiple measures, provided that teacher effectiveness is evaluated, in significant part, by student growth (as defined in this notice). Supplemental measures may include, for example, multiple observation-based assessments of teacher performance or evidence of leadership roles (which may include mentoring or leading professional learning communities) that increase the effectiveness of other teachers in the school or LEA.

America COMPETES Act elements means (as specified in section 6401(e)(2)(D) of that Act): (1) A unique statewide student identifier that does not permit a student to be individually identified by users of the system; (2) student-level enrollment, demographic, and program participation information; (3) student-level information about the points at which students exit, transfer in, transfer out, drop out, or complete P–16 education programs; (4) the capacity to communicate with higher education data systems; (5) a State data audit system assessing data quality, validity, and reliability; (6) yearly test records of individual students with respect to assessments under section 1111(b) of the ESEA (20 U.S.C. 6311(b)); (7) information on students not tested by grade and subject; (8) a teacher identifier system with the ability to match teachers to students; (9) student- level transcript information, including information on courses completed and grades earned; (10) student-level college readiness test scores; (11) information regarding the extent to which students transition successfully from secondary school to postsecondary education, including whether students enroll in remedial coursework; and (12) other information determined necessary to address alignment and adequate preparation for success in postsecondary education

NCLB Waiver - in Document entitled ESEA-flexibility – updated June 7, 2012

1. College- and Career-Ready Standards: “College- and career-ready standards” are content standards for kindergarten through 12th grade that build towards college and career readiness by the time of high school graduation. 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, which must certify that students who meet the standards will not need remedial course work at the postsecondary level

6. Standards that are Common to a Significant Number of States: “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.

State Network of Institutions of Higher Education (IHEs): A “State network of institutions of higher education” means a system of four-year public IHEs that, collectively, enroll at least 50 percent of the students in the State who attend the State’s four-year public IHEs.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

What Can I Do?

Renee', Christel, and I have been getting questions daily from people asking what they can do. We decided the easiest way to help others would be to create a video answering this question. I'm watching this back and realize that we left a lot of points out. We'll do a follow-up soon. I will post our blogs on this video when I have time to edit but for now tune in and I hope we're at least a little informative.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Letter to a State School Board member...

Thanks Dixie ~

I'll take a look at them.  I'm certain that the great things being done can be done without having the common core standards.  Great teachers will always find creative ways to teach and help students excel.

I've never thought that the standards were all bad, because I believe good exists in everything, but as I began researching the privatization and federal over reach far exceed any benefit they have.  They could be perfect standards, which they are far from, and I still could not support them due to the loss of freedom and control.

As I've urged others to do, you must study the entire education reform landscape to see what we see.  I've never said this is entirely about the standards.  You must thoroughly examine the RTTT application (I know we didn't win but we still are moving forward with the changes we agreed to make), the NCLB waiver and all the controls in there, the SLDS, the SIG, the Master Teacher program, the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund, the CTE transformation, the call for a German Model of education, and many more.  Once you thoroughly study this out you'll be able to see how they all fit together to transform education in America.  While the current education system needs a lot of help, everyone needs to look at this overall picture and decide if that is the America they'd like to see.  Is this how you want your children taught?  There is no empirical evidence proving their success.  I do not want my children experimented on.  You must agree there are problems or you would never have decided to home-school your grandchildren.

I believe we need to be educating our children with a classical education where they are learning to become great thinkers.  I believe by learning how to work hard they will be able to succeed in life.  I do not believe education should be used by businesses to create "good workers" to fill jobs and I believe in Capitalism!  Businesses working with certain branches of government, circumventing the representative form of government gives the people no voice is NOT capitalism.  The push towards preparing for careers is turning us into the second model of creating workers and not thinkers.

We may never agree and that is fine but I will continue to teach others about the research I've found so that they too can decide for themselves.  I'm certain you can value the importance of looking at both sides of an issue and then studying it out in your mind to come up with your own conclusion.

I recognize that there are many people writing positive articles on Edweek but you must acknowledge that Edweek also produces a lot of articles stating the contrary.  There is a very real debate currently going on across the country which should have happened before we adopted them and agreed to these reforms.  It is a travesty to the American people and our representative form of Government.

I've been told that school board members are telling citizens not to listen to us moms because we have an agenda and are a special interest group.  Please enlighten me if you know what they think our agenda is.  
My agenda is only to give my children the best education possible, guard against crony capitalism being promoted by Pearson, Microsoft and others in our state,  and stop federal over reach into our schools so that we can maintain local control. 

And because one of my local board members sent a letter out stating that citizens in our community should not read any of "those mom's blogs" and only go to the State Office for official information, I feel an obligation to share my research with as many people as I can to shed light on the other side of the debate so that citizens can make an informed decision.  

Please let your colleagues know that name calling has never been an appropriate means of discussing an issues.  

Thank you for your time, 
Alisa Ellis

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Common Core: A Mental Health Professional & Parent's Perspective

Thank you Dr. Thompson ~

Dear Mrs. Swasey & Mr. Beck:

I am writing this note on behalf of your joint request to address issues surrounding the Common Core State Standards Act (CCSS) that is currently in the process of being implemented in the vast majority of our public school systems in the country.

By way of background, I’m an African American Doctor of Clinical Psychology (Psy.D.) currently serving as Director of Clinical Training & Community Advocacy at a private child psychology clinic in South Jordan, Utah.  I completed undergraduate education at both the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, and Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah.  In addition to my personal experiences involving my four children in public schools, I have completed multiple thousands of hours in training/therapy/assessment/legal advocacy work with children in both the private and public school settings in multiple western states.   I am also the author of a award winning doctoral project/dissertation which tackled the ago old problem of why many African American school aged children underperform in public schools titled, “Cracking the Da Vince Code of Cognitive Assessment of African American School Aged Children:  A Guide for Parents, Clinicians & Educators” (Thompson, G. 2008).

As a “local clinical community scientist”, I have an ethical obligation to our community at large to provide unbiased opinions regarding issues that affect the education experiences of school-aged children and their respective guardians.  The “Common Core States Standards Act” (CCSS) falls uniquely into this category.    I have devoted many hours reading commentaries and studies, both pro and con, regarding the overall efficacy of CCSS.

In a nutshell, the (mostly) progressive public education community speaks highly of CCSS and its stated goal of raising educational standards across the board in a effort to improve the educational process for all students in the country, particularly under performing African American and Latino students nationwide.  

The (mostly) conservative opponents of CCSS claim that involvement in public school education should be primarily a local/statewide process, and that Federal intrusion into public school education is not effective for multiple alleged reasons.  In addition, there are disputes involving the CCSS curriculum itself whereas proponents cite multiple sources of research that allegedly support the efficacy of the education content.

Opponents also cite similar competing references that support their contention that CCSS curriculum stifles’ teachers’ creativity and that the content, especially in math, is not effective for early learners, gifted students, and children with diagnosed learning disabilities. The amount of information available to voters and parents by “experts”, both for and against CCSS, is overwhelming in its length, complexity and emotional intensity.   Like the Affordable Care Act, the implementation of the Common Core State Standards in the vast majority of public schools nationwide, has caused a seemingly unbridgeable divide in many quarters of this country.

I am not an expert in the development and implementation of core educational curriculum in public schools, so I will not comment on the issue.  I am not an expert on the effects of federal government involvement, verses local involvement, in public school education, so I will not comment on the issue.  I am not a forensic accountant with expertise in the areas of national and local financial accounting tax monies submitted towards public education, so I will not comment on that issue.  I am also not a politician, nor do I represent any special interest groups that could even be remotely tied to the multiple and complex issues surrounding CCSS.  I find the political process in this day and age to be ineffective and personally unfulfilling, and will not comment on the efficacy of education platforms set forth by the three main political parties.   I am, however, an expert in psychological and educational assessment/testing, as well as privacy acts surrounding the use of these tests in both private and educational settings.   My remaining comments will focus on these two issues as they are addressed by the CCSS.

Educational Testing

According to the U.S. Department of Education, CCSS will authorize the use of testing instruments that will measure the “attributes, dispositions, social skills, attitude’s and intra personal resources” of public school students under CCSS (USDOE Feb, 2013 Report).  In a nutshell, CCSS simply states that it will develop highly effective assessments that measures….well….almost ”everything.”  

Our clinic performs these comprehensive IEE’s (Individual Education Evaluations) on a daily basis. These test measure “attributes”, “dispositions”, “social skills”, “attitudes” and “intra personal resources” as stated by the USDOE.    In addition, we utilized state of the neuro-cognitive tests that measure the informational process functioning of children in school (Cognitive Assessment System, Naglieri 2002).   

A careful, or even a casual review of a “comprehensive evaluation” would clearly show that the level of information provided about a particular child is both highly sensitive and extremely personal in nature. They are also extremely accurate.  In a private clinic such as ours, we follow strict privacy guidelines regarding patient privacy (HIPPA) and when dealing with educational institutions, we also make sure that we comply with the FERPA Act (Federal Education Reporting & Privacy Act). 

Bluntly put, if a client’s records somehow get into the hands of anyone besides the parents without written consent from the parents, or a court order, our clinic would be shut down in a heartbeat and the clinician who released unauthorized comprehensive assessments would lose their license.   Clinical Psychologists in graduate level classrooms and clinical training sites spend years getting these basic privacy rights pounded into our heads.  Failure to articulate and implement strict privacy guidelines issued by the Federal Government, State licensing boards, or the American Psychological Association (APA) would result in immediate dismissal from graduate school academic institutions, as well as any clinical psychology training sites in either Internship or Residency settings.   

The accuracy of psychological testing has grown in the past 10 years to astonishing levels.  The same tests used in our clinic for assessments, are used in part by federal law enforcement agencies, the military, local police departments, and the Central Intelligence Agency. (Interesting enough, these agencies are also interested in finding out about alleged terrorist’s, serial killers, or airline pilots “attributes, dispositions, social skills, attitudes and intra personal resources”).  When placed in the “right” hands of trained mental health professionals, psychological testing can save lives.   Placed in the “wrong” hands, psychological testing can ruin lives as well as cause psychological trauma to people if they have knowledge that their results were used for nefarious purposes. 

Below are issues regarding CCSS “testing” policies that have not been addressed by the Common Core to State’s Governors’, State Superintendents, State School Boards, local school district superintendents, local school boards, to parents of children in public school education:

  1. Common Core does not address what types of tests will be utilized on our children.
  2. Common Core does not address, specifically, exactly who is developing these tests.
  3. Common Core does not address the fact that these tests have not yet been developed, and are not available for public consumption or private review by clinical psychology  researchers and psychometric professionals.
  4. Common Core does not address if the soon to be completed tests will be subjected to the same rigorous peer review process that ALL testing instruments are subjected to prior to being released to mental health professionals for their use in the private sector.
  5. Common Core does not state which public school employees would be administering or interpreting these tests.   There is a reason that School Psychologists cannot “practice” outside of their scope in school districts.   As hard working and as wonderful as this group is, their training pales in comparison to the average local clinical psychologist.
  6. Common Core does not address the well documented, peer-reviewed fact that both African American and Latino students, due to cultural issues, tend to have skewed testing results when cultural issues are not addressed prior to the initiation of such testing.  This should probably be addressed if these results are going to be following a student “from cradle to high school graduation.” 
  7. Lastly, once these highly intimate, powerful, and most likely inaccurate testing results are completed, who EXACTLY will have access to all of this data?   Common Core DOES address this issue and it is the subject of the next section.

I mentioned above that our private clinic is subjected to multiple federal, state, and professional association regulations when it comes to protecting and releasing mental health records.   The rationale behind these regulations is obvious in nature both to the professionals, as well as their clients.   Records do not leave our clinic unless the guardians of the children instruct us, or unless a District Court judge orders the release of the records.   In some cases, we are even ethically obligated to fight court orders that request private mental health records.   

Common Core State Standards radically changes this game.  

Prior to CCSS, public school districts were required to adhere to the same rules and regulations regarding private records as our clinic is subjected to.   HIPPA tells us how to store records, were to store records, and whom to release them too.  FERPA (Federal Education Records Protection Act) is subjected to HIPPA requirements when it comes to protecting sensitive education records.   As show herein, educational testing records are highly sensitive and it only makes common sense that this practice of protecting these sensitive records continues.   

Buried in all of the fine print of the CCSS is a provision that allows participating school districts to ignore HIPPA protections.   The newly revised FERPA laws grants school districts and states HIPPA privacywaivers.  

Department of Health & Human Services Regulation Section 160.103 states, in part,:
Protected health information EXCLUDES individually identifiable health information in education records covered by the Family Education Rights & Privacy Act (FERPA), as amended 20 U.S.C. 1232 g”.

CCSS also states that this “information” may be distributed to “organizations conducting studies for, or on behalf of, educational agencies or institutions to develop, validate, or administer predictive testing.” (CCSS (6)(i).  

In summary CCSS allows the following by law:

  1. Grants school districts a waiver from FERPA in terms of deleting identifying information on their records.
  2. Allows school districts to then give these identifiable records basically to anyone who they deem to have an viable interest with these records.
  3. These organization or individuals chosen by the government to use this data to develop highly accurate predictive tests with no stated ethical procedures, guidelines, or institutional controls.   (What are they exactly trying to “predict”?”
  4. All without written parental consent.   

The “Comprehensive Statewide Longitudinal Data System,” employed by CCSS that will hold this sensitive data, per DOE webpage, states, “all States implement state longitudinal data systems that involve elements specified in the “America Competes Act”.   I spent two hours pouring over this Act to see if there were any further guidelines to Federal of State officials as such may pertain to privacy issues.   None could be found.    

Proponents of the CCSS point to volumes of articles and promises and policies that state that our children’s data will be private and protected by the national and state data systems that will shortly be implemented per CCSS guidelines.   I have very little doubt that the computer systems employed by Federal, State and local districts that contain this data will be state of the art computer systems.  Others whom are experts in this field may differ strongly).  The point however is this: CCSS does not specify who can have access to their records, or for what specific purposes this sensitive data will be utilized.   When it comes to addressing privacy issues, the CCSS contains abundant, generalized “legal speak”.

In terms of privacy issues, below are issues regarding CCSS “privacy” policies that have not been addressed by the Common Core to State’s Governors, State Superintendents, State School Boards, local school district superintendents, local school boards, to the parents of children in public school education:

  1. Exactly WHO will have access to records obtained by this national/state database?  The generic political answer of “Appropriately designated education officials or private research entities” does not “cut the mustard.”
  2. For what EXACT purpose will this sensitive data be utilized?  
  3. What organizations will have access to identifiable academic records?  Other than generic information regarding race, age, gender and geographic location, why does the Federal database require identifiable information to be accessible? 
  4.  If the political responses to these questions are “all information contained in the database is unidentifiable and securely stored,” then why were changes made to FERPA to allow an exemption to educational privacy rights when it comes to the implementation of Common Core State Standards?
  5. What type of “predictive tests” are currently being designed and who will have access to results of whatever is being measured?


Like the infamous “No Child Left Behind” laws that on some levels (with the sole exceptions of the 2004 IDEA Act included in NCLB), have set back progress of public school education years, I honestly believe that a few lawmakers with good hearts and intentions honestly wanted to find solutions to our public school systems.  I believe also that the Obama Administration wants every child to have a proper and rigorous education and that the implementation of Common Core will bring them closer to that goal.

I am also, however, a local clinical community scientist. In this role I have several serious questions concerning CCSS noted herein which have yet to be answered to my satisfaction as a scientist, education advocate, and parent. I would implore every Governor, State Superintendent, and State School Board member in the country to honestly and openly explore the issues cited above and provide accurate answers to these issues to the public in “plain speak”.

Given the gravity of these issues, I cannot professionally endorse the Common Core State Standards as currently written until pointed clarification is provided by politicians and educators from both party’s endorsing CCSS.  Nor in good conscience can I enroll my toddler in a public school system that utilizes CCSS until these issues are clarified to my satisfaction. 

The issues involving psychological testing and privacy are issues that should be of concern to every parent with a child enrolled in public school.    The power granted federal and state education administrators via the regulations of CCSS are unprecedented in nature.   Some parents will be quite comfortable with CCSS even in light of the issues detailed in this letter.   Some parents would be aghast with the same provisions.   Regardless, parents deserve to be clearly informed about these and other issues surrounding CCSS in a clear and straightforward manner so that they can make educated choices regarding their children’s educations.

On a final note, I wish to publically show my support to the underpaid and overworked public school teachers nationwide.  If I had the power, I would elevate their status to that of a medical doctor in terms of pay and prestige. What they do with the limited resources available, and with the burden of bureaucracy following their every professional move is simply nothing short of amazing.  Our clinic employees several public school teachers (One is a former Utah Teacher of the Year), and school psychologist due to their amazing talents and abilities of reaching the hearts and minds of our young and diverse educational psychology clients.  

There are answers to most of the perplexing questions facing public school officials.  I believe these answers can be readily found in multiple peer-reviewed journals in neuropsychology, clinical psychology, education and public policy.  Answers can also be found by mining the experiences, wants and needs of our hardworking public school teachers on the local and statewide ground level, as well as local parenting organization of various stripes.  Once science and cultural based solution are found and implemented, I believe even cynical conservative lawmakers nationwide would be more willing to pony up additional tax payer money when presented with imaginative, science based educational models in pubic school systems.   On the other hand, simply adding billions of dollars towards a 150-year old foundational system of education in crisis without implementing massive changes is irresponsible, unimaginative, and most likely politically  and monetarily motivated. 

When politics and money are taken out of the public school education policy arena and replaced with common sense and culturally sensitive science, mixed in with local value systems, I believe we, as a nation will make great strides in the goal of educating our children.   

Until that time comes, it is my wish that regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation and political affiliations, our country will join together at the grass roots to amicably reach “common core” grounds of restoring our once proud public education system.  

Best regards,

Dr. Gary Thompson
Director of Clinical Training & Community Advocacy Services
Early Life Child Psychology & Education Center, Inc.

Doctor Thompson can be reached for comment at