Wyoming Citizens Opposing Common Core have recently been made aware that the Wyoming Association of School Administrators (WASA) is in the process of sending a letter to all of the local school boards, encouraging them to sign it and send on to legislators as part of an effort to lobby for moving ahead with education reform many parents do NOT want (Common Core, Smarter Balanced, and so on). This effort could have tremendous influence with legislature if parents do not take action.
There are many new school board members and even experienced ones who could feel pressured to sign on and desperately need to hear both sides of what WASA is advocating for before making this decision.
We have printed the WASA’s letter to legislators below, and immediately after it appears our rebuttal, which addresses each of the five numbered points in detail for your reference and for that of school board members.
At the very least, please send a copy of the WASA letter along with our rebuttal to your local school board and ask them to consider these facts and your opposition before they decide to sign on. Also please consider using the points we’ve provided in a letter to both the Governor and the State Superintendent of Instruction. Links are provided for your convenience below.
Letter from WASA to our local school boards:
November 24, 2014
On behalf of the Wyoming Association of School Administrators (WASA), we would like to offer our sincere thanks for your work as our local legislature. As leaders of local school districts we look forward to working with you and the legislature to make this state a national leader in education.
Many of us involved in district leadership feel that the last few years comprised numerous missed opportunities to involve superintendents, board members and experts in our respective constituencies to make critical decisions affecting all of us. We have been adversely affected by a lack of consistency and direction from state leaders, which has led to ongoing confusion for districts regarding standards, assessment and accountability as a whole. As a consequence, many districts have relied upon their own interpretations and judgments regarding these important matters.
To avoid these issues in the future, we strongly recommend the following in the spirit of collaboration and cooperation.
1. Apply for the federal NCLB waiver to eliminate duplicate reporting which results in unwarranted frustration and spending for the state and districts. The waiver would allow our state the flexibility to implement and redesign an effective accountability system that would meet the needs of Wyoming students, educators and taxpayers. We believe the federal accountability system has reached its logical conclusions and impact.
2. Support districts to fully implement the adopted Wyoming State Standards (WSS) as written. Thousands of dollars and hours have been spent by districts in efforts to align curricula, procure resources, and train staff to embed the WSS in effective instruction on a daily basis. Your department could provide expertise and support to ensure that all districts are implementing the standards efficaciously. We fear that rewriting the state standards would put our state back at least five years and create more confusion and anxiety.
3. Advocate for the immediate adoption of Smarter Balanced Assessments as Wyoming’s accountability measure. Our legislative accountability consultants use the aphorism, “if you want to measure change, don’t change the measure.” Smarter Balanced is the best available measure that is fully aligned to the WSS. Its adoption could save the state as much as $7.5 million per year if used in lieu of current tools. The Smarter Balanced Assessment suite would provide timely formative feedback that could be used to impact teaching and learning immediately. It would also provide summative feedback that would reveal how Wyoming compares with the states around us so the legislature can see what the people of Wyoming are getting for the highest-per-capita student spending in the nation.
4. Reestablish the importance of the work that was done from 2011-2014 on state level accountability systems. Again, this lack of emphasis has led to confusion and impact of this legislation. We must move our state forward toward a balanced accountability system that allows districts to design their own frameworks for other necessary skills and knowledge necessary for the 21st century. These next generation of accountability systems, like those being developed in states like New Hampshire, move more toward more personalized modes of education for students and highly involves districts in the design of their own accountability system in conjunction with state parameters.
5. Finally, we urge that you create an advisory group made up of superintendents and curriculum directors to help develop the state system of supports. The capacity to move our state to become a national leader is a major element that has been lacking in response in the recent accountability discussions. Many ideas have been offered, but nothing has come from these efforts to date. We also urge that national thought leaders in this area be used to help foster this design. In sum, WASA and all of our members truly believe that we can once again become partners with the governor’s office, WDE and the legislature for the benefit of our students and communities.
Thank you in advance for your time, and we look forward to working with you for the benefit of all the students in Wyoming.
Superintendent Board Chair
WASA Letter to Boards (Printable Version)
Our Rebuttal, Point by Point:
1. NCLB – It is widely acknowledged that NCLB is poor policy and yet, through a waiver system not passed by Congress, the current administration has used NCLB as one of the main clubs to ultimately force states down the path that eliminates local control and parents’ ability to have a meaningful say in education policy. Sadly, WASA is endorsing these very ideas, such as the NCLB waiver.
- The waiver does not come free and obligates us to keep the CCSS, which is completely controlled by people unaccountable to us.
- WASA wants it because they don’t want a bifurcated accountability system where it must report results two ways based on separate state and federal requirements, and these two reports could potentially conflict with each other.
- This double reporting is another symptom of the disease of federal and state control over education.
- We do not support any attempt by Wyoming to obtain a waiver.
- We do support Wyoming giving the education system back to local communities and allowing parents the authority to hold our local school districts accountable.
2. CCSS – Educators are being urged to refer to the Common Core as “Wyoming State Standards” for messaging purposes, as evidenced by meeting summary notes from WEA’s Education Coalition.
- This is subterfuge that insults the intelligence of parents and voters. We must call them what they are…Common Core State Standards.
- The districts that are claiming they spent thousands of dollars did much of that ahead of the actual adoption of CCSS.
- Since parents first learned about Common Core and became alarmed, we have demanded a cost analysis, which has never materialized.
- We keep being assured that there’s no significant additional cost and that the tests will actually be less expensive. It’s time that a full accounting of monies spent needs to be given to the legislature.
- The accounting should include the cost the implementing the Common Core State Standards fully.
3. SBAC – WY spends roughly $1.5 billion on education. $7.5 million is a drop in the bucket when it comes to the total cost of education and thus not worth mentioning when discussing the question of quality education and assessments, which is what parents are concerned about.
- To claim that the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium is aligned to the Wyoming State Standards is deliberately misleading.
- The SBAC is definitely aligned to the CCSS for English Language Arts and Math.
- WASA is speaking against itself when it says, “if you want to measure change, don’t change the measure.” You are changing the measure by bringing SBAC. If you don’t want to change the measure then you should be advocating for continuing the PAWS.
- WASA claims SBAC will help schools compare student progress to students in other states. SBAC is a computer adaptive test and PARCC is a fixed test…even if we undertook the risks of adopting SBAC, we still can’t get a perfectly accurate comparison to students in other states.
- Parents want the cult of comparability to end as this leads to more and more testing.
- Wyoming parents want Wyoming teachers to be at the heart of the creation of any tests given to their schoolchildren, not multistate consortium where Wyoming barely has a vote. We want autonomy with our tests.
- Parents’ legitimate concerns over data collection and privacy have still not been addressed. It is no longer enough to “FERPA Compliant” because FERPA was quietly gutted and no longer protects our family information adequately.
- Developing an SLDS that is compatible with every other state’s while feeding data into it with the intention of sharing with the federal government and others (not clearly defined and therefore open to abuse) has created by fiat what will be an illegal national database for personal and educational information. Parents say no to this.
- The WASA letter states, “We have been adversely affected by a lack of consistency and direction from state leaders, which has led to ongoing confusion for districts regarding standards, assessment and accountability as a whole,” and yet WASA continues to push for the adoption of the SBAC as Wyoming’s assessment. We can only believe that WASA is unaware of the current lawsuit in the state of Missouri where a circuit court judge issued a temporary restraining order on the payment of membership fees to SBAC on the grounds that the consortium is an illegal interstate compact under the Compact Clause of the US Constitution. This makes the stability of the federal consortium (SBAC) questionable.
4. Accountability systems – From parents’ perspective, we just want an accountability system that holds the district accountable to us, not to the state. Parents are the chief consumers of the education system and the only ones truly capable of holding it accountable.
- Creating more government accountability simply perpetuates more government control, which is a noose that is tightening around the freedom and creativity of our classrooms.
- WASA’s position on the merits of accountability would be stronger if they were to put themselves on the same level as teachers in the Wyoming Accountability Act. In the last accountability bill (p. 7) there was a motion to remove a major portion of the bill in which the districts’ ability to immediately fire school principals was removed.
- Since WASA is so interested in NCLB Waivers, keeping the Common Core, and acquiring SBAC against the wishes of parents, then the administrators should be put back in and be held accountable as well. There is something wrong in advocating for all these things and then being let off the hook when the axes start to fall for the teachers.
- Meanwhile, it is Wyoming families and their children that pay the price of lost privacy, stress and anxiety, as their schools becomes a miserable place, focused almost solely on testing.
5. Advisory Group – This is another illustration that shows how out of control education is.
- So many education elitists now think the only way we can improve education is by turning away from local communities and relying on small clubs of high level bureaucrats to organize solutions based on great-sounding ideas gleaned from “national thought leaders”, rather than just letting educational laboratories do their work and select from the highest performing programs based on evidence.
- Parents want legitimate involvement in the major educational decisions, and this idea of WASA’s would circumvent that.
- Parents cringe at the words of “national thought leaders”, because this is the thinking that delivered CCSS, SBAC and NGSS to our door and forces us to cry out for what we should have had in place before: a proper local process that genuinely involves non-educator parents and other stakeholders.
- We would like to see WASA partner with parents in local communities, and not just the WDE and legislature.
WCOCC Rebuttal Letter (Printable Version)
Again, we are asking that you take several actions to help make known your feelings concerning this form letter
1) Contact your local school board (HERE) and ask them to consider not signing a form letter that was pre-written on their behalf. For their reference, provide each member a copy of WASA’s letter (in case they’ve not yet seen it) and the rebuttal and make clear in your own words your opposition to the Board signing WASA’s letter appealing to legislators. (Printable versions are available in this post above)
2) Contact your legislators and tell them that you disagree with this form letter. ==>HERE
3) Contact the State Superintendent of Public Instruction and let her know that you disagree with this form letter at firstname.lastname@example.org as well as our Superintendent Elect, Jillian Balow at email@example.com
4) Contact the Governor and let him know that you disagree wit this form letter at firstname.lastname@example.org