Amendment Stops Funds for NGSS & New Action Item

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An amendment on the budget bill regarding education passed the conference committee yesterday.   The amendment prevents any funds from being spent on the adoption of the Next Generation Science Standards! Here is the language of this great amendment:

In carrying out W.S. 21-2-304(c) by reviewing the uniformity and quality of the educational program standards imposed under W.S. 21-9-101 and 21-9-102 and the student content and performance standards promulgated under W.S. 21-2-304(a)(iii) neither the state board of education nor the department shall expend any amount appropriated under this section for any review or adoption of the next generation science standards as developed by the National Science Teacher’s Association, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the National Research Council and Achieve.

Thank you to the legislators who supported this amendment and to all of you who participated in asking for their support!

TAKE ACTION BEFORE FRIDAY:

Email the Senate to ask them to support amendment HB0001H3014.

BCC the Senate: Jim.Anderson.SD02@wyoleg.gov; Jim.Anderson.SD28@wyoleg.gov; Paul.Barnard@wyoleg.gov; Eli.Bebout@wyoleg.gov; Bruce.Burns@wyoleg.gov; Cale.Case@wyoleg.gov; Leland.Christensen@wyoleg.gov; Hank.Coe@wyoleg.gov; Stan.Cooper@wyoleg.gov; Bernadine.Craft@wyoleg.gov; Dan.Dockstader@wyoleg.gov; Ogden.Driskill@wyoleg.gov; Fred.Emerich@wyoleg.gov; Floyd.Esquibel@wyoleg.gov; Gerald.Geis@wyoleg.gov; John.Hastert@wyoleg.gov; Larry.Hicks@wyoleg.gov; John.Hines@wyoleg.gov; Wayne.Johnson@wyoleg.gov; Bill.Landen@wyoleg.gov; Curt.Meier@wyoleg.gov; Phil.Nicholas@wyoleg.gov; Leslie.Nutting@wyoleg.gov; Drew.Perkins@wyoleg.gov; Ray.Peterson@wyoleg.gov; Tony.Ross@wyoleg.gov; Chris.Rothfuss@wyoleg.gov; John.Schiffer@wyoleg.gov; Charles.Scott@wyoleg.gov; Michael.VonFlatern@wyoleg.gov

Suggested Subject: Please support the Conference Committee Amendment on Science Standards: HB0001H3014

Suggested Content:

Dear Senator,

Please support HB0001H3014.

Copy & Paste the amendment: In carrying out W.S. 21-2-304(c) by reviewing the uniformity and quality of the educational program standards imposed under W.S. 21-9-101 and 21-9-102 and the student content and performance standards promulgated under W.S. 21-2-304(a)(iii) neither the state board of education nor the department shall expend any amount appropriated under this section for any review or adoption of the next generation science standards as developed by the National Science Teacher’s Association, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the National Research Council and Achieve.

Include a short statement on why the Next Generation Science Standards are bad for Wyoming.

Thank you for taking the time to make your voice heard when it comes to Wyoming’s Education!

Update on Dead Bills & New ACTION ITEM!!

no_time_1_HB97 and HB179
Ran Out Of Time

There was a time limit on bills to be heard in the Committee of the Whole in the House last week. The clock ran out resulting in 29 house bills dying. HB97 and HB179 were both among those that were not heard after passing committee.

Even though we did not see the changes we would have liked through these bills, the people of Wyoming are making their voices known and we’ve made great progress in communicating our concerns. Stay tuned for possibilities still alive in this legislative session.

Thank you all for your efforts!

TAKE ACTION
Help Stop the Adoption of the
Next Generation Science Standards

Contact The Conference Committee Today!

An amendment (HB0001H3014) was brought to the budget bill to prevent the spending of any finances on the revision or review of science standards. This will be a great step toward taking back Wyoming education! The Next Generation Science Standards raise many concerns, which can be viewed here. They are the ONLY science standards the State Board is looking to adopt as early as this Spring. One example of a controversial middle school earth science standard is:
ESS3.D: Global Climate Change
Human activities, such as the release of greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels, are major factors in the current rise in Earth’s mean surface temperature (global warming). Reducing the level of climate change and reducing human vulnerability to whatever climate changes do occur depend on the understanding of climate science, engineering capabilities, and other kinds of knowledge, such as understanding of human behavior and on applying that knowledge wisely in decisions and activities. (MS-ESS3-5)

TAKE ACTION ON TUESDAY
Email the Committee: Eli.Bebout@wyoleg.gov, Dan.Dockstader@wyoleg.gov, John.Hastert@wyoleg.gov, Curt.Meier@wyoleg.gov, Drew.Perkins@wyoleg.gov, Steve.Harshman@wyoleg.gov, Gregg.Blikre@wyoleg.gov, Ken.Esquibel@wyoleg.gov, Glenn.Moniz@wyoleg.gov, Bob.Nicholas@wyoleg.gov, Tim.Stubson@wyoleg.gov

Subject Suggestion: Please support HB001H3014
Content Suggestions: Please support the House position on the 3rd reading amendment #14 sponsored by Chairman Teeters. (Add a sentence or two here on why you do not want the Next Generation Science Standards adopted in Wyoming)

VOTE YES HB114 – Making elected positions on the State School Board of Education!

vote

SUPPORT HB114

TAKE BACK WYO EDU!

YOUR EMAILS ARE WORKING!  LET’S CONTINUE THE PROGRESS TOWARDS FREEDOM AND LIBERTY IN WYOMING’S EDUCATION!

We support HB114. This bill would require that at least part of the State Board of Education become elected instead of appointed.

House Education Committee emails:

Jerry.Paxton@wyoleg.gov, Garry.Piiparinen@wyoleg.gov, Hans.Hunt@wyoleg.gov, David.Northrup@wyoleg.gov, Matt.Teeters@wyoleg.gov, Cathy.Connolly@wyoleg.gov, Albert.Sommers@wyoleg.gov, John.Patton@wyoleg.gov, John.Freeman@wyoleg.gov

Suggested Subject: Please Vote YES on HB114

Example content: Please support HB114 so that there is a more meaningful representation of the people reflected on the State Board of Education.

Parents and Educators Speak to Education Committee in support of HB97 and Against Common Core!

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House Ed Committee Heavily Amends 97

It Passed Committee And Is Headed Back To The House.

“There has been a lot happening over the last few days by those that would have you believe that this bill is not good enough, please don’t let this confuse you or divide our groups any further.   I want to emphasize that Wyoming Citizens Opposing Common Core and myself support HB97 and its amendments.  Though we wish that it had been kept in its entirety, we realize that this is our chance to finally rid our state of both CCSS and the SBAC testing consortium.  This bill will also fix the process that allowed CCSS to be adopted under our noses. You can read the bill here and know that it in fact does take us out of CC and doesn’t allow for it to happen again, plus gives parents a better avenue to participate and be informed when changes are happening within the public school.”

The House Education Committee heard HB97 on Monday evening.  There was testimony for and against the bill and several amendments were made.

Amy Edmonds, from the Wyoming Liberty Group, was first to testify on behalf of HB97.   I do not have her full transcript, but she laid to rest a lot of the misinformation concerning HB97 and how common core was not state led and talked of the flawed process that brought it to Wyoming.

Elizabeth Bingham, parent and resident of Rock Springs testified about sovereignty.   It will be found HERE.

A letter was also shared by a prospective educator.  It can be found HERE.

Christy Hooley, parent, and educator shared her experience with CCSS and trying to speak against them in her school.  It can be found HERE.

Cindy McKee, parent and former educator and resident of Savery, had this insight to HB97 and Common Core HERE.

Dawn Irvine, concerned citizen, grandparent, of Cheyenne, spoke of ther concerns for freedom and liberty being lost with CCSS HERE.

Unfortunately, the Committee amended the bill in such a way that the data privacy pieces were completely removed, the Common Core English and math standards review for this year was postponed until 2016, and many more changes were made.  The good news is that the bill still removes Wyoming from the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium and prevents participation in any consortium or program that cedes any control over Wyoming education.  The bill also still includes some solutions to the flawed standards adoption process.  The substitute bill can be seen here.

The Bill now goes to the House Committee of the Whole for 1st reading.  This step includes unlimited debate and a vote will take place only on amendments before moving to 2nd reading.

Please Complete This Action Item By Thursday

IT IS NOW TIME TO ADVOCATE FOR HB97 WITH THE ENTIRE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES AGAIN.

WE CANNOT LET UP!  We now need the entire House to say YES to HB97. Please email in the next 48 hours.

Email the Representatives: Mark.Baker@wyoleg.gov; Eric.Barlow@wyoleg.gov; Rosie.Berger@wyoleg.gov; Stan.Blake@wyoleg.gov; Dave.Blevins@wyoleg.gov; Gregg.Blikre@wyoleg.gov; Kermit.Brown@wyoleg.gov; Donald.Burkhart@wyoleg.gov; James.Byrd@wyoleg.gov; Rita.Campbell@wyoleg.gov; Richard.Cannady@wyoleg.gov; Kathy.Coleman@wyoleg.gov; Cathy.Connolly@wyoleg.gov; Kathy.Davison@wyoleg.gov; John.Eklund@wyoleg.gov; Ken.Esquibel@wyoleg.gov; Lee.Filer@wyoleg.gov; John.Freeman@wyoleg.gov; Gerald.Gay@wyoleg.gov; Keith.Gingery@wyoleg.gov; Patrick.Goggles@wyoleg.gov; Mike.Greear@wyoleg.gov; Matt.Greene@wyoleg.gov; Marti.Halverson@wyoleg.gov; Steve.Harshman@wyoleg.gov; Elaine.Harvey@wyoleg.gov; Hans.Hunt@wyoleg.gov; Lynn.Hutchings@wyoleg.gov; Allen.Jaggi@wyoleg.gov; Norine.Kasperik@wyoleg.gov; Dan.Kirkbride@wyoleg.gov; Kendell.Kroeker@wyoleg.gov; Samuel.Krone@wyoleg.gov; Lloyd.Larsen@wyoleg.gov; Tom.Lockhart@wyoleg.gov; Bunky.Loucks@wyoleg.gov; Tom.Lubnau@wyoleg.gov; Mike.Madden@wyoleg.gov; Troy.Mader@wyoleg.gov; Robert.McKim@wyoleg.gov; David.Miller@wyoleg.gov; Glenn.Moniz@wyoleg.gov; Bob.Nicholas@wyoleg.gov; David.Northrup@wyoleg.gov; John.Patton@wyoleg.gov; Jerry.Paxton@wyoleg.gov; Ruth.Petroff@wyoleg.gov; Garry.Piiparinen@wyoleg.gov; Tom.Reeder@wyoleg.gov; Mark.Semlek@wyoleg.gov; Albert.Sommers@wyoleg.gov; Tim.Stubson@wyoleg.gov; Matt.Teeters@wyoleg.gov; Mary.Throne@wyoleg.gov; Tom.Walters@wyoleg.gov; Stephen.Watt@wyoleg.gov; Sue.Wilson@wyoleg.gov; Nathan.Winters@wyoleg.gov; David.Zwonitzer@wyoleg.gov; Dan.Zwonitzer@wyoleg.gov

Call the Rep Hotline: within Wyoming, the number is 1-866-996-8683 or (307-777-8683 in Cheyenne).  You can say: “Please vote yes on House Bill 97″ plus 1-2 short sentences of comment (example “to protect Wyoming children and education”).  Important details on using the hotline are at:  http://legisweb.state.wy.us/postcomments/hotlinedisclaimer.aspx

Concerned Citizen and Grandparent Dawn Irvine’s Testimony

Mr. Chairman, Fellow Representatives,

Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to speak today. I am here today because, obviously, I am opposed to Common Core, or any federally mandated curriculum being forced on the students of Wyoming. However, I am opposed to much more than that. I am opposed to the fact that the Government is encroaching on the rights of the people. Not only our Federal Government, but also, our State Government is exceeding its authority and forcing the Will of Government onto the people.

When the Constitution of the United States was written, the Federal Government was only delegated very limited powers. Do you know what those four powers are? Anyone? James Madison said those powers were limited primarily to external objects and named specifically as:
1. War
2. Peace
3. Foreign Commerce
4. Negotiations
Those which are to remain in the State Governments are numerous and indefinite and will extend to all the objects which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties, and properties of the people, and the internal order, improvement, and prosperity of the State. (Federalist 45)

Simply speaking, if it is not war, peace, negotiations and foreign commerce, the Federal Government is not supposed to be involved in it. What that means for us, is that the Federal Government has no business whatsoever in our health care, or in our business, in our schools, or in any other aspect of daily life!
The Constitution was written and ratified by “an act of the whole American People” as Thomas Jefferson declared in 1802. Its purpose is to “secure the blessings of Liberty…to our posterity”. To secure that Liberty, “governments were instituted among men” not over them.*

Therefore, the purpose of the State Legislature is to enact laws for the good of the people, not the good of the Federal Government.
This Common Core debate is a perfect example of how far our Legislature has strayed from its purpose. You had two (2) Bills presented to you last week. HB97 and HB168. You, as a body, agreed to hear HB97 and that is why we are here today.

Whatever your reason for not introducing HB168, let me remind you that both Bills are brought by the people of Wyoming to address the concerns that many have regarding a Federally mandated school curriculum that has been adopted in Wyoming schools. So, whether you hear one Bill or both, the people of Wyoming have made it clear that the decisions about education are to be determined by the people and not of the Government.

In essence, even though neither Bill was perfect, the fact of the matter is, Wyoming residents do not want the decisions regarding the education of our children determined by the Government. Not the Federal Government, nor the State Government. We do not want the decisions about education made by the Governor, or by a person that he chooses to name as Director. We do not want the decisions about education to be determined solely by the School Board, nor the Board of Education. We voted for a School Superintendent that we believed would represent our common interests and not jeopardize the education of our children to the whim of a political system.

Essentially, the decision is to be left to the people of the State. Therefore, your consideration of the Bill must weigh heavily on the Will of the People.

Look around this room. These are the People and it is up to you to listen to the people and act accordingly to their will. Do not think for a moment that because this is a small group of people, that the majority of the people opposed to this takeover of our educational system are not fully supporting our actions just because they are not able to be here today. Do not fool yourself that there are not more people who believe the same way as we do but were not able to attend this session.

I personally have had to close the doors of my business in order to attend these sessions. There are thousands of like-minded people that would be here if they were able to do the same thing that I was able to do. And, there will be many more as we continue to educate the people to the damaging effect that Common Core will have if it is allowed to continue.
The seating in this room leads you to believe that you are superior to the people in this room. Let me remind you that you hold that seat because the people in this room elected you to that seat in order to represent the best interest of the residents of this State. You are sitting in these chairs because the people voted and granted you permission to be in that seat. And, depending on the outcome of these sessions, the people will vote again and will determine if you will continue to stay in that seat. The people who were supporting HB168 are already in the process of making that decision because they feel that, by not allowing that Bill to be introduced, you have turned a deaf ear to their concerns.

Lastly, let me remind you that the people of Wyoming know what is best for our children, our business and our communities. We are, after all, the people who live in these communities. We do not need the Government telling us what is best for us. We, the people, will make those decisions for ourselves.

In closing, I ask you again to look around this room. Look at these people who have come together, united, to tell you that we will not stand for the Government violating the rights of the people. We will not sit back and allow you ignore the voice of the people. We will hold you, our elected representatives accountable and responsible for doing the will of the people.

Thank you for your consideration in this matter and I pray that you will make your decision based on the Constitution and the rights of the people, not only on this matter but in all matters before you during this session.

Dawn Irvine
Grandparent, Concerned Citizen
Cheyenne

*The Path to Restoring America by KrisAnne Hall (Permission granted)

Christy Hooley’s Testimony to Education Committee

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Good Afternoon Chairman Teeters and Committee Members,

My name is Christy Hooley and I am a teacher, citizen and parent asking for your support of HB97.  I represent many parents who could not be here.  I am also representing educators across our state, whom have chosen not to publicize their opinion, due to fear of repercussions to their career.

A year ago I was teaching 6th graders at Monroe Intermediate School in Green River.  Back then, I was busy implementing Common Core into my Language Arts class, and attending professional development courses.  I was also receiving instruction from consultants outside of Wyoming on how to apply this training to the classroom.  What my students and colleagues didn’t know, was that I was also looking into questions and researching concerns  that came to me after attending a training given by the WDE on the ELA CC standards that previous summer.   I had first heard that there would be new standards just prior to the notice of the training being available for those interested.

During this training it was pointed out that Common Core State Standards would be national and would make my job as a teacher easier.  Children that would move out-of-state would come to my classroom having learned the same material, basically at the same speed, and in the same method that I would be using once CC was fully implemented.  I left the training trusting those who told me that CCSS would lead to internationally competitive learning and would give every child the gift of being career and college ready.  The majority of the training was focused on how to accomplish the biggest changes to the standards; the reduction of literature and an increased focus on informational texts, with a greater emphasis on writing.

In my research I found that less than 2% of students actually move state to state.  Why would w such sweeping changes for such a small percentage?  More importantly, I saw that this “making my job easier” could lead to teachers making assumptions about students, and result in less teaching to an individual child and their specific needs. I did not misinterpret this; I had several conversations with other teachers and instructional facilitators about this being a fix to a supposed “problem” with mobility of students.

I also found evidence that the college and career readiness that CC is promising is actually a minimal definition of college readiness.  THIS was NOT pointed out to me, and we all assumed it meant University level.  A key Common Core creator, Jason Zimba, said that the Common Core prepares students for non-selective colleges.  He said: “I think it’s a fair critique that it’s a minimal definition of college readiness… but not for the colleges most parents aspire to…   How is this more rigorous?

Yes, Wyoming standards needed improvement, but why would be accept mediocrity, when we have the resources to create them? Should we not have the HIGHEST standards instead?

There was never any field testing for Common Core standards; so this is a national experiment using virtually all children. Supporters never attempt to explain how education is supposedly improved by Common Core, nor show a pilot state or pilot classroom where Common Core had been successfully used. Beyond the many pleasant-sounding buzz words, such as,  “internationally benchmarked”,  “rigorous”,  “improves college and career readiness,”  “critical thinking skills”, or “21st Century learning.”   There is no documentation or   back up any of the claims that the standards are higher.   These are baseless advertising words.  The term “internationally benchmarked” has since been removed from their site, because these claims cannot be proven.

This is valuable learning time in their lives that I as a teacher and parent will not get back should this “experiment” fail. Upon this lack of evidence are we to build our children’s futures. There is no amendment process to remove or change the CCSS should Wyoming decide it is not working.   It can only be changed by those who wrote and copyrighted them.  It will not be those of us governed by them that make the changes.  We are expected to be content in the fact that we are allowed to add a tiny portion of 15%.  That portion we know will not be on a nationally created test meant to align to that which is already copyrighted.

Dr. Sandra Stotsky, an expert on ELA standards, served on the official Common Core validation committee and refused to sign off on the academic legitimacy of the Common Core said, As empty skill sets, Common Core’s ELA standards do not strengthen the high school curriculum. Nor can they reduce post-secondary remedial coursework in a legitimate way. As empty skill sets, Common Core’s ELA “college readinessstandards weaken the base of literary and cultural knowledge needed for authentic college coursework, decrease the capacity for analytical thinkingand completely muddle the development of writing skills.”

Reflecting on the reduction of literature and increased focus on information learning, I think of my own experience in high school as I prepared for college.  I wasn’t studying informational text in language classes.  I was reading the classics, I was learning to analyze and form my own opinions as I studied characters, themes, and struggles between good and evil.   I’m grateful I had two full years of classical studies. Given my experience, however, I worry:  Which books will have to be put aside to accomplish CCSS mandate of 70% informational reading by 12th grade, Dickens, Austen, Shakespeare, Melville, or O’Connor?   Suggestions from the CCSS exemplars include scientific writings, political writings, and opinion pieces.  Suggestions for literature are controversial books, one such as “The Bluest Eye,” a story of a sexual predator who exploits a young woman.

I’ve been told local school districts would never allow those things to be taught in the curriculum they have control over.  However, they do not have control over the national test, and those national tests will drive the content of ALL the curriculum choices schools have.  How is that really having control?  As a teacher, I want to give my students the best chance to pass the end of the year test.  Would that include covering things that could potentially be on the test?  Of course it would!  Teachers want a test that is created by those who are closest to their students, not by a consortium of people outside the state, who know nothing about them and don’t represent Wyoming interests.  We already have the NAEP that gives Wyoming a comparison across the country.

Also, CCSS emphasis on writing across the curriculum is taking valuable time away from what research shows it best for kids.  When teachers really know their subject students flourish.  We are blessed in my district to have top-notch specialty teachers.  However, my daughter recently spent 3 days in her art class writing a paper explaining her artwork.  This was valuable time that should have been spent learning art from an expert.  The writing process is best taught by those who are experts at it. CC is causing districts to try to accomplish its supposed “rigor” by spreading it across the content areas.

I was never given the opportunity to discuss CCSS openly with my colleagues.  In fact, when I tried sharing my research and concerns during a staff meeting I was shut down, in front of my colleagues, by my administrator and told not to discuss it at school.  Those harboring similar concerns would only speak to me behind closed doors, via non school email or texts messages.  There were real tears shed by my colleagues and friends as they explained to me that they agreed with my research on CC but could not support me openly for fear of losing their position.  You must know that for every teacher that speaks in favor of Common Core, there are that many or more that are in fear and silent.

I must agree with Rep. Freeman’s assessment that teachers “want stability”, but disagree that this stability must come by giving away local control.  HB97 will allow for teachers to be given this stability with an increased time of review AND be allowed to participate in their creation and adjustments when that need arises.  As teachers we were never given this ability to be part of the process in the creation of these standards.  This bill allows teachers to continue on the course already set, until new standards are properly vetted through an improved process of adoption that will bring Wyoming top-notch standards, not the forced mediocrity of Common Core.

Please vote to give this voice back to teachers and support HB97.

Christy Hooley

Educator, Parent, Concerned Citizen

Green River

An Absence of Questions: Cindy McKee Testifies Against CCSS and for HB97

Cindy

An Absence of Questions

Good afternoon Mr. Chairman and members of the committee.  My name is Cindy McKee.  I live in Savery, WY, where my husband Cody and I operate a cattle ranch.  I am a former public school teacher and am the mother of two children, 10 and 9 years of age.  Thank you for hearing my testimony today.

I am here to urge your support for HB97.  Personally humbled and thoroughly anguished over what I’ve learned over the past 11 months or so about centrally planned education reform sweeping Wyoming and the country, I also am filled at this moment with a deep sense of relief and gratitude toward Almighty God.  No matter the final outcome this month, this bill passed introduction, and has achieved for parents and other taxpayers what should have been constructed in 2009 when the catchy-sounding idea of Common Core was first brought back to Wyoming from places afar:  A genuine forum to ask the right questions about the wisdom of a path we are considering.

As was the first Constitutional Convention, such a forum is messy, it’s arduous, even ugly at times, but it’s within this framework, right here, that the people are actually represented.  I would submit that the entire process of this reform was carefully designed to avoid any real questions, and their absence is what allowed this initiative’s stealth.  It was hoped that Americans, being so busy and all, and with their appetite for brief, simplistic, appealing-sounding talking points that employ soaring language and evasive reassurances, would accept these points as fact and repeat them without bothering with inquiry.  Now that we are discussing why we may have need for an HB 97, we can finally ask them.

We are told:  “These standards are research-based, rigorous, and will ensure college and career readiness”.

Well, let’s dig in.  What is “research-based”?  Wouldn’t that imply that these standards as a whole have been tested and proven themselves in a school somewhere?  That we could actually demonstrate measurable student growth in a verifiable study conducted with a control group?  But that research doesn’t exist – though loaded with promises, there is no evidence from anywhere that these standards deliver results.  And for this we give up our sovereignty?  Or are we actually talking about individual pieces of the standards having some grounding in research?  In that case, couldn’t we also properly say that a new pain-relieving drug combining ibuprofen, morphine, and another untested chemical is research-based too?

Next, what exactly is “rigor”?  It sounds self-explanatory, rather implies higher content goals and more challenging work as a result, does it not?  Like, for example, mastering the times tables in second grade rather than third, or expanding the study of more challenging literature such as Shakespeare or Steinbeck.  Is that how you would explain it to a constituent?

Welcome to one of the most misused terms of the century.  If anything can be called “rigorous” about these utterly middle-range standards, it is the ceaseless demand for students to demonstrate heavily emphasized “strategies”, as exemplified clearly in the math standards, as they attempt to work their way toward mastering the actual content.  Items are now scored not only by the correct numeric answer but by demonstration of being able to navigate the prescribed strategy, even when a standard algorithm is the quickest and most efficient way to get there. The time being wasted and the misery caused in getting students to wrap their heads around playing out all these “strategies” is sad to watch, and probably the primary reason 500 early childhood experts came together to condemn the Common Core as developmentally inappropriate.

Further, a disturbing move toward “informational texts” over classic, traditional literature has been telegraphed and already partly put into place, under the guise that these texts will better prepare students for college and workforce since most materials read there are informational.  But where is the evidence that this practice actually leads to higher literacy and better prepares students for the world?  The full case for the power in real literature and the abuse of power that can be exercised over a people by limiting exposure to it cannot possibly be made in my limited time, but let me make one point.

Does anyone here consider the Federalist Papers easy reading?  I certainly don’t.  Law students at prestigious colleges today struggle to read them and many professors don’t bother, but get this:  The Federalist Papers were material for newspapers in 1787.  They were aimed at the average reader.  Today, editors must restrict the reading level of articles to about the 6th grade to keep papers selling.  Now, what types of books were the people of this time primarily educated with that allowed them to reach this level of easily understanding complex informational text?  That would be the Bible, a book mainly comprised of story and history, but also including some poetry, some law and theological letters, plus a widely used history text by Plutarch called Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans, and classical Greek and Roman literature.  I think we have reason to question the “informational text” craze, which often lands students in hopelessly boring, actually less challenging reading.

All right, now, exactly is meant by “career and college readiness”?  And why are these lumped together?  Are readiness for “career” and readiness for “college” really the same thing?  If they are, then what’s a college for?  Shouldn’t the college take care of the “career readiness” part?  Well, you’re right now, not everyone’s going to college.  But aren’t these really very different aims?  Wouldn’t readying students for “career” in high school necessarily compromise true readiness for “college”?  If so, wouldn’t that require some preplanning so students can focus on either “college” or “career” at some point in high school, or more efficiently, even earlier?  Why not just pick out the “career” kids really early and focus their training?  Can anyone see where this might be headed as “new evidence emerges” and future changes are deemed necessary to the Core?  Who will decide?

And since when is “college and career readiness” the total sum of an education?  Isn’t that really only a collateral purpose?  Let’s compare this limited aim to outcomes stated in the Massachusetts School Law of 1789, around the same time average readers could easily digest the Federalist Papers and Greek and Roman literature.  Teachers and instructors were directed to:

“…. impress on the minds of children and youth, committed to their care and instruction, the principles of piety, justice, and a sacred regard to truth, love to their country, humanity, and universal benevolence, sobriety, industry and frugality, chastity, moderation and temperance, and those other virtues which are the ornament of human society, and the basis upon which the Republican Constitution is structured.  And it shall be the duty of such instructors, to endeavor to lead those under their care (as their ages and capacities will admit) into a particular understanding of the tendency of the before mentioned virtues, to preserve and perfect a Republican Constitution, and to secure the blessings of liberty, as well as to promote their future happiness; and the tendency of the opposite vices to slavery and ruin.” 

These goals talk of shepherding and mentoring literate, virtuous, participating citizens who will actively guard liberty and eagerly pursue happiness. I can’t begin to think of students only as future workers, to be manipulated and cultivated like bacteria in a petri dish.

But this is a new age, reformers say.  Those ideas are “outdated” and we must make students ready for a “21st Century Global Economy”.  Wow.  The very phrase implies that America being involved in a “global economy” is a something brand new and challenging.  As if America had any history that did NOT involve trade and communications in a global economy. Common Core authors assure us that the Standards “lay out a vision of what it means to be a literate person in the 21st century” and the Standards ready students for a “technological society”.  Well, now wait a minute.  I grew up without a computer, internet, cell phone, digital photography, or an immersion blender, yet I use all of them well today.  This is really shocking, but I actually taught school without a Smart board, though I’m not bad at using one now.  Did I somehow lose my literacy because technology brought me new tools for communication and work?  Isn’t literacy just…literacy?  Do we really have to be an educrat to know the answer?

And…if the Common Core is only Standards, not curriculum, then why is it written as a set of goals with prescribed strategies intertwined?  When we compare to other high-achieving countries or proven, successful standards, we don’t find that element.  Aren’t standards supposed to be just goals, and the strategies come in as school districts select from various curricula and teachers select and employ the many methods they are trained in?  Isn’t this just going to limit the variations that could appear in “Common Core Aligned Curriculum Materials?”  And with teacher’s jobs and kids futures now so heavily linked to tests, we can safely assume, can’t we, that curriculum will quickly follow what is on these tests?  That’s not choice or control.

I simply must challenge another vague but nice-sounding talking point here.  Only Friday, the Casper-Star Tribune, in its reporting on HB97 passing introduction, faithfully reminded us that the “Common Core Standards were developed by a group of states”.  In other words, they were “State-Led”.  Newspapers repeat it.  Educators repeat it.  Legislators repeat it.  Again, sounds good, easy to remember, the meaning is thoughtlessly assumed.  But I ask you:  What’s your definition of the “state”?  Somehow, I managed to use my pre- “technological society” literacy to employ a 21st-century online version of a rather antiquated tool:  the dictionary.   A “state” is a nation or territory considered as an organized political community under one government.  Now…what’s our form of government here?  That would be a republic, by the people, for the people.  Isn’t that kind of…the legislature?  Who was here in 2009 or perhaps a little before?  Which piece of legislation did you pass to authorize “leading” us into the CCSS initiative?  Never mind, I already know.

Casper Star, like so many, never questioned the assurance they found in well planned, nationally circulated, robotically repeated talking points.  But the newspaper’s statement could only be true if we buy the notion that that our Governor and our State Superintendent of Schools, and subsequently an unelected State Board of Education, can possibly be considered “the state”.  Sounds like you all might just be out of a job.  And if the people of the “states” that supposedly “led” this movement thought it was such a great idea, why does the federal government now have an RFP out for $5 million for a communications strategy to sell the populace on it?

We’re mincing words when we argue about whether this is a “federal” initiative or not.  Anything the federal government enforces, by way of awarding or withholding taxpayer money, answers to the federal government and becomes subject to it.  Actually, this is worse than a federal government initiative.  Their “investment” enforces a privately developed reform, which was completed in secret where decision makers had to agree in writing to maintain confidentiality – no public documents, hearings, or minutes as would appear in an actual “state”.  Does this reflect the way decisions are supposed to be made in a republic?  Are we really supposed to trust in a process that does things this way?

On Wednesday, Representative Wilson argued on the floor of the house against this bill by stating that school districts don’t need chaos and instability.  Who could not agree?  What an utterly foolish decision by leaders to proceed this way, bypassing any kind of genuine process and putting teachers in this awful position.  As a former teacher enduring change after change, I deeply and truly empathize.  But the ultimate question is…what’s more important here?  Moving on to quality standards with proven results, or preserving the comfort of educators by staying a course that is not only inferior, but cedes authority outside our state, making the problems difficult, if not later impossible, to rectify?  Are we really proposing sacrificing our own children so we don’t upset the apple cart?

And speaking of teachers and school districts, here’s another set of zingers:  At what point in this broken process were teachers ever exposed to an environment of discussing pros and cons of Common Core in an unbiased way?  When did teachers ever get to engage the critical thinking skills we all say we want taught to our kids?  Ask hard questions, like who is David Coleman and exactly what qualifies him to write ELA standards?  Or any of the questions I’ve asked above?

The answer is, they never were.  Like state leaders, they were only presented a sales pitch, theirs in the form of  “inservice training” and worse, the sales pitch left no room for any kind of consumer decision.  Teachers were never, not once, presented with potential pitfalls as well as potential advantages, and then asked, “Well, do you think this whole thing is a good idea?” I even count teachers on the standards review committee when I say this, because by the time the review process had begun in Wyoming for ELA and Math Standards in Wyoming, the Governor and State Superintendent had already committed us to the standards by an MOU, as had the school districts when they hastily signed upon the request of the WDE (in 4 days!) their own MOU to authorize the state to apply for RttT funds.  RttT applications required a commitment to “Common Standards” (only one set out there, folks) to have any real chance of winning.  What do you suppose all that said to the group of primarily teachers (who are employed by the state) in their “official” capacity of recommending standards for adoption?  Weren’t those MOUs pretty much a mandate to the committee and the Board?

The broken process is still in force today.  Remember, the Next Generation Science Standards have NOT been adopted in Wyoming, they are being considered.  But somehow teachers know they are coming, even though public comment isn’t even on the schedule yet.  Get this: the subject of a master’s thesis a teacher I very much respect is working on deals with how Common Core ELA standards can be effectively integrated into NGSS lessons in the elementary classroom.  Now, how is it she feels utterly safe that she will not be wasting her time with this topic?  Is THAT the way we do things here?

Representative Wilson also wondered “how many teachers were asked about this idea”, and that this bill’s posting date didn’t allow them time to respond to it.  Well, after all this time and training, I would counter, how in the world are teachers supposed to respond?  Haven’t they already been told, years ago now, before CCSS was even officially adopted, that this was coming, that it was fantabulous and it was time to get rolling on it?  And isn’t it now their JOB to implement it?  Even if they don’t have concerns that they are afraid to express, many are too invested in it now to want to stop.  Who can blame them?

This is why we need HB 97.  It gives us a chance at a real process to improve educational standards in Wyoming, one that genuinely involves the public rather than a meaningless public comment period never shown to have any effect at the very end of the process.  HB 97 limits data collection to only that which is necessary, puts penalties in place for unauthorized sharing and goes a long way in limiting how it may be shared legally.  HB 97 gets Wyoming its control back over education and puts us on a path for real, measurable educational improvement rather than empty promises accompanied by federal “encouragements” that bind our hands.  Most of all, HB 97 will give us a chance to put the inquiry, the critical thinking, the questions, and the elements of a republic back into educational decision making, not only for teachers but for the taxpayers and parents of these precious children in school.