As a mother who has had to fight for her special needs child, I understand that we will not all see things the same way. I am okay with that. What I do not appreciate is being ignored, lied to, or gossiped about. Utah’s school board while good intentioned in their decisions is unwilling to back up their actions with evidence. If you look up our state history and read how we are different from most states in how we run our state office of education, you will see that the governor gets to appoint our state school board members. We the people do not get to, however, we are their constituents and they have a duty to us. Here is the latest in the Common Core saga…
Dear State School Board,
A Heber citizen, Anissa Wardell, contacted the Utah State School board this week to ask whether Utah will still be able to exercise her freedom to get out of the Common Core (and write our own standards, using University input, an option also known as ESEA option #2) –after the waiver deadline of September 6, 2012.
Rather than answering the question, state school board member Tami Pyfer told her constituent that she had no intention of freeing Utah from Common Core and then she proceeded say that evidence proving that Common Core was free of federal strings had “been presented in a variety of public forums numerous times.” This is simply not true.
1. Most people don’t even know what the term Common Core even means, according to a recent poll by Achieve, Inc. (Does your neighbor? Do teachers know– other than knowing there are different education standards this year– do they know vital truths such as: the standards are under copyright and can’t be amended by us; they dumb down college readiness to a lowest common denominator that matches vocational/tech schools, and they were never validated by the only math professor (Milgram) and were also rejected by the English professor (Stotsky) on the official Common Core validation committee? And they remove the cognitive tool of cursive? And they minimize the importance of classic literature and narrative composition? And the piloting of Common Core 9th grade math was a disaster in Wasatch District this year. But nobody knows these things. Why? Because the USOE and the Dept. of Education thinks that if they repeat the lie “these standards are so good” often enough, they’ll be good. A lie is a lie no matter how much you want to believe it isn’t a lie.
2. The one and only public forum put on by the USOE about Common Core was held two years after the state school board signed us up for Common Core. That forum was at the Granite School District last spring. The first 45 minute speech, praising Common Core (without any documentation or evidence) was given by the USOE, followed by 2 minute testimonials from impassioned parents and teachers and politicians from both sides of the issue: hardly fair or thorough or timely. And nope, evidence was not shared there, to prove federal strings were not attached. (Incidentally, Professor David Wiley told this exact same lie, just as publically, when he was debating FERPA regulatory changes done illegally by the Dept. of Education this year.) The bypassing of the public and of legislators in pushing Common Core on us all, is something the proponents of Common Core are willing to lie about. Or do they really not understand? Have they really not seen the documentation of lost autonomy?
3. The statement: “Common Core is federal strings-free” is not true. The Department of Education is micromanaging the common tests, the testing consortia, and is demanding that consortia synchronize their efforts and give the Dept of Education access to data collected thereby. Evidence: http://www2.ed.gov/programs/racetothetop-assessment/sbac-cooperative-agreement.pdf
Even if we get out of the SBAC, which we might, tomorrow, if the school board votes that way, we are still federally controlled by Common Core. Look at this definitions page from the Dept. of Education’s website: http://www.ed.gov/race-top/district-competition/definitions . It says: “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.” So you either have to do common core, or write your own university approved standards. But the deadline for that second option appears to be ending Sept. 6th, so perhaps after that, the only option will be common core. How are we free? We aren’t. Wish I lived in Virginia or Texas right now. Utah not only doesn’t have educational freedom anymore, but we collectively don’t even seem to be capable of realizing it’s actually gone.
The Dept. of Education has mandated in the waiver, in the original RTTT application which our Governor and board signed, and in the assessments RTTT that Washington state, our contracted fiscal agent, signed us up for and which we are responsible to obey as long as we are in the SBAC, that we can’t take anything away–nothing– and we can not add anything beyond the 15% speed limit to these standards. How can anyone call this federally string-free? How? It is an absolute falsehood.
I implore the board to vote to get us out of SBAC in the meeting tomorrow.
We will not be string-free, even then, but it’s a huge step in the right direction of maintaining Constitutional principles: of limiting government’s power over local decision making, of holding on to the principle of representation, and of holding on to the principle of the sovereignty of the people. I promise I will sing your praises and will thank you most sincerely if you vote to get us out! You can quote me on that.
Lastly, so that I don’t repeat the error of others, of not giving solid evidence for my claims, below are the emails that Anissa Wardell has given me permission to share.
Thank you for listening.
Dear Governor & Board,
It is my understanding that there is a way for Utah to get out of Common Core so that we are free of any strings attached. The ESEA flexibility request window shuts down Sept. 6, 2012. Does this mean we have to resubmit our waiver request before then, or lose the option of doing loophole option 2 forever?
Is the Board considering this? Now would be the time to decide. Please discuss this at this Friday’s meeting. Please respond to me with more information.
Tami Pyfer [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Wednesday, August 01, 2012 3:26 PM
Personally, I have no intention of unadopting the new math and ELA common core standards. We are already “string free” and it’s unfortunate that some groups feel otherwise.
If we really are string free, would you kindly show proof of that? I have done a great deal of research on my own, outside of those you refer to and from what I can see, we are not string free. The math standards are horrible! I am going to have to pay hundreds of dollars this year alone for my 6th grader so that she will be ready for Algebra. Utah’s math standards were already better and were more understandable than what we have just adopted.
While I have this audience, I also want the Board (and everyone else on the list) to know that as a parent I want cursive writing to stay in our state curriculum.
Please provide all of us evidence to back up your understanding.
From: Tami Pyfer [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Wednesday, August 01, 2012 5:53 PM
I appreciate your passion, but the “evidence” has been presented in a variety of public forums numerous times. Your disagreement with the facts does not change them. I will continue to respond to my constituents who are truly looking for answers to their questions regarding our core standards.
Well thank you Tami. You have not answered my question, and if there is proof I honestly would like to see it. You incorrectly assume that I do not want true answers. If there is this information and it has been provided many times, please tell me where I can find it.
It is answers like yours that are frustrating for constituents. I will continue to ask for answers. I never said we have to agree, I am searching for answers and because you are a board member and you have been entrusted with the mantle to ensure high quality curriculum standards and instruction, and because you are supposed to represent your constituents, I expect you to live up to that.
Original post written by Christel Swasey about this issue can be found here: http://whatiscommoncore.wordpress.com/2012/08/02/anissa-wardell-and-tami-pyfers-email-exchange/