Take Action! Advocate for an Elected State Board of Education: Legislators Ask to Hear from the People!

Advocate for an Elected State Board of Education:

Legislators Ask to Hear from the People!

The budget footnote that prohibited the adoption of the Next Generation Science Standards demonstrates that the legislature is responding to the people’s concerns over standards adoption and data collection and sharing in Wyoming.

We now have a tremendous opportunity before us!  This is the legislature’s way of responding to the flood of communication they’ve received over education issues this year, and it’s a golden opportunity to be heard.

Let legislators know that you think the State Board should be an elected body, accountable to the people, not political appointees. This would begin a return to local control over education in Wyoming.

THIS FRIDAY  April 25th

Joint Education Committee Hearing

9:00am

Room 302 of the Capitol Building

This public hearing is dealing with the organization of state administration of public education. One of the proposals has been to make the State Board of Education an elected, rather than appointed, body.

You may find the meeting announcement and a link to the agenda here. (http://legisweb.state.wy.us/interimCommittee/2014/04MTG0425.pdf)

TAKE ACTION:

  1. If possible, plan to attend the hearing and testify. Appearing in person has the greatest impact and allows you an opportunity establish relationship and credibility with legislators before and after the meeting. Bring 15 copies of your testimony or submit them to Dave Nelson at lso@wyoleg.gov.
  2. If you cannot attend, contact Dave Nelson at lso@wyoleg.gov with your written testimony, saying you are unable to attend but want to submit comment for the April 25th meeting of the Joint Education Committee.

Thank you for your help as we work to bring local control back to Wyoming Edcuation!

Picture2

 

“Building the Machine” The Common Core MOVIE Available HERE!

 CCMovie

 “Building the Machine”

A gripping half-hour documentary that tells the story about the Common Core, one of the biggest national reforms to be adopted behind closed doors.

 HERE

Spread the word on social media and “Like” their page: https://www.facebook.com/BuildingtheMachine

Information on the movie  and the research behind it in their Press Release below:

Groundbreaking Documentary Sheds Light on Common Core 
Purcellville, VA — March 25, 2014

As the national conversation over the Common Core State Standards continues to heat up, one non-profit and an indie filmmaker are hoping that their upcoming documentary will shed light on an issue that they believe is a largely unknown problem. The film Building the Machine is about how Common Core came to be and how it will affect education for years to come.

The Home School Legal Defense Association’s department of Film and Visual Media has been working on the documentary for over a year and the film’s director believes it will make waves in the public debate over Common Core. “When I first started working on the film, I had very limited knowledge about the Common Core and how it made its way into our public schools,” Ian Reid, the film’s director, said. “At first it seems like an ideal solution to the commonly cited woes of an education system that is failing our students: After all, who wouldn’t want higher standards? But after more than a year of investigative research, and in-depth interviews with many on the inside of the education standards world, it was clear that there is much more to the implementation of the Common Core than merely ‘raising standards.’” 

The Common Core State Standards are the product of the National Governor’s Association, the Council of Chief State School Officials, education experts, and many wealthy backers like the Gates Foundation. The standards are being implemented in schools across 45 states. While the Constitution gives the federal government no direct authority over education, the government has created incentives for states to adopt the Common Core as a tactic for national curriculum. But many experts have voiced skepticism as to whether the standards are actually good for American children.

Our goal is to present a balanced investigative documentary, by interviewing experts on both sides of the issue—including some members of the Common Core Validation Committee,” said Reid, “and this led to a variety of fascinating discoveries about the culture war that is being waged in education right now. One of the most troubling was the clear difference between the two factions’ willingness to dialogue over this revolutionary change. Particularly, my team and I found that while many opponents to 
the Common Core were willing to speak out, only a small fraction of the supporters would engage in the discourse.”  

One thing that Reid finds most fascinating about the Common Core is that it erases party lines. “Common Core is not a typical liberals-versus-conservatives issue,” he said. “It’s an issue that concerns parents and the future of their child’s education, and I hope to get the message across that their ability to steer the education of their child is largely slipping away from their hands and into the hands of politicians, unelected bureaucrats, and large corporations.”  


The film will be released by the Home School Legal Defense Association online at noon EDT on March 31, 2014, for free. HSLDA will also be accepting pre-orders for the extended DVD set which will ship later this summer. Reid is the Director of Film and Visual Media at the Home School Legal Defense Association.

Speakers Bring Common Core to the Table and Serve Up a Firestorm of Media Coverage!

JacksonPresenters

Speakers Kelly Simone, Alisa Ellis, Amy Edmonds, and myself spoke in Jackson Hole last week.  We each had 30 mintues to present a portion of our research on education reform and the Common Core State Standards.  The presentation was filmed and will be uploaded to Youtube as soon as it’s available.  I’ll be sure and post it for those interested.  This evening apparently brought on a firestorm that might just melt the snow from those gorgeous Tetons!

The Jackson Hole News & Guide published two articles covering the event that was sponsered by the Concerned Women’s Group of Jackson Hole.  The first article here, speaks of dozens coming out to hear the speakers.   In reality there were over 100 people in attendence.

The article by Brielle Schaeffer is titled, Speakers Oppose New Common Core Standards Here are a few quotes from the article:

Speaker Christy Hooley said, “It’s not just about standards” but about the intrusion of the federal government and corporations into local control of education. She said Common Core standards will limit the ability to teach to the individual child.

The speakers, including former Sweetwater County teacher Hooley, talked about the history of education policy, the creation of the standards and their concerns about a state data collection system.

The standards are being pushed on the state by the federal government, former state lawmaker Amy Edmonds said.

“I get the question all the time from people, ‘How did this happen?’ ‘How did we get here?’ ” she said. “I want them to understand these things didn’t drop out of the sky. These are all things that are happening through the federal government. … No educator in Wyoming was involved in writing these standards.”

“Everything the state has been doing is taking cues from the federal government,” Edmonds said.

Alisa Ellis of Utahns Against Common Core said the standards are unconstitutional and violate education laws.

“The constitution says any responsibility not given to the government is for the states,” she said.

And, she added, “if that isn’t bad enough, the Common Core isn’t field tested.

“The U.S. has never had national standards before and then they decided to roll out untested standards across the nation.”

Kelly Simone of Wyoming Citizens Opposing the Common Core worried about collecting student data and sharing it among agencies. She urged the audience to petition their school boards and representatives about educational standards and data collection.

The first article did not do justice for the amount of research and information that was shared by mother and Physician’s Assistant Kelly Simone.  Read her recent editorial here.  The Cody Enterprise covered the information she shared with her local school board on Jan. 21 about the Wyoming P-20 Statewide Longitudinal Data System (SLDS) . I encourage you to read the full article here.

The second article also by Brielle Shaeffer can be found here, and is titled Common Core Finds Support.   Here are a few quotes from the article.

“The [Wyoming] Department of Education says that Common Core are not curriculum but the sad reality is [that] tests drive curriculum,” speaker and former Sweetwater County teacher Christy Hooley said. “To say otherwise is ludicrous.”

In addition to curriculum, Hooley and other speakers delineated other worries about the loss of schooling on literature, workforce training, equity and the collection of student data. The critical view is not embraced by the establishment.

“There’s a lot of misinformation out there,” said Kathy Scheurman, professional issues director of the Wyoming Education Association. “It’s kind of frightening what information is out there.”

I’d like to know what “misinformation” Scheurman is referring to.  Everything presented was researched and fact checked with primary sources and government documents.   These can easily be found when putting forth effort to understand where the concerns are arising from.

The ‘what’ is decided locally

“Curriculum is without any question a district responsibility,” Teske said. “People want to blend all the issues.”

There’s a lot of confusion between what a standard is and what curriculum is, Teton County schools Superintendent Pam Shea said.

“Standards are a framework,” she said. “They provide guideposts along the way.”

The blending and confusing she refers to is actually happening on her end. As a teacher, I see very clearly the difference between standards (what students are expected to know) and curriculum (what is used to teach that standard). Superintendent Shea is correct, it is a “framework”.  Just like the framework of any building will drive what the building looks like.
Just like the bones to my body ultimately drive the shape of my body. So it is with the standards and the materials teachers will use to teach. Many teachers and parents see the problems with “Fuzzy Math”, such as Every Day Mathematics, which is used here in Sweetwater County School District No. 2. The problem is that these types of programs (curriculum) are what is being aligned to Common Core. This is VERY clear.

The new English language and math standards still allow educators to use their expertise to teach their students, she said.

“Everybody needs a framework,” Shea said. “Education needs frameworks so there are not gaps and so you can plan for rigor and high expectation.”

Teachers choose what is the age-appropriate tool for the child to employ to reach the standard, she said.

“It’s the curriculum, the materials, it’s the ‘what’ that we still have local control over,” Shea said.

Districts are now limited by the curriculum that is stamped “Common Core Aligned or Approved”.   Yes, the district can now pick from this limited and aligned material.  Regulate and limit our choices…  Most teachers are accustomed to these regulations and do their best with what limits the government now places on us.  However, to make it sound like teachers are free to teach and do what they know best is misleading.

Critic Hooley also was upset about the lack of emphasis on literature in the standards. The standards outline a 50-50 split between literature and nonfiction for younger grade levels. In high school years there is a 70 percent emphasis on nonfiction.

“Math teachers aren’t taught how to teach reading,” Hooley said. “It’s pretty concerning.”

“I think that sometimes, in … trying to make everybody the same, we’re losing freedom to such a great extent that it cannot be regained,” Alisa Ellis of Utahns Against Common Core said.

Speakers at the forum critical of Common Core also opposed the idea of the system promoting college and career readiness. Educating the mind doesn’t include workforce training, critic Hooley said.

“Is that the government’s job, to determine and make sure your kid has a job or is it the parent’s opportunity to give that freedom of choice to their child?” she asked.

I was grateful to see that the data privacy and collection concerns were addressed in the article:

Student data collection was another topic that worried Kelly Simone of Wyoming Citizens Opposing the Common Core. She fears that student data is to be shared with non-educational state agencies.

But Common Core doesn’t change data collection processes, Principal Miller said: “Student confidential information is a legitimate concern but … there are safeguards in place,” he said.

Still, Sen. Christensen thinks student privacy issues will be examined during the legislative session that begins Monday.

“Most of us were of the understanding that these were just raw numbers to help track trends and general progress, but as Simone reported that night it’s actually names, dates of birth and files that are reported early on. It was different than what I expected.”

However the most concerning portion of this article included a Fact vs. Fiction section:

Dan Brophy has given permission for me to post this repsonse.  It was also forwareded to Teton County School Board and the Wyoming Department of Eduation.

RE: “Common Core Finds Support” (February 5, Jackson Hole Daily)

Education bureaucrats and politicians say dismissively, again and again, “there’s so much misinformation out there, opponents are misinformed.” Opposition to the Common Core agenda is growing because opponents have done more homework than the bureaucrats.

FICTION: School districts maintain control over curriculum. FALSE, they do not. The US Dept of Education spent $330 million in grants to design SBAC and PARCC, the two national Common Core tests. Extensive research (and common sense) proves that teachers, who are evaluated and compensated on their students’ test scores, “teach to the test.” There will be only one correct answer on the test, which the teacher must drill into the student. Night follows day: national standardized tests require national standardized curriculum. Bill Gates, whose Foundation has spent over $400 million to fund Common Core development and dissemination efforts, bluntly stated: “When the [standardized] tests are aligned to the common [Common Core] standards, the curriculum will line up as well.” Wyoming bureaucrats are not telling the truth. National standards inevitably are national curriculum; local control disappears, stolen by bureaucrats from Wyoming citizens.

FICTION: The Federal government had no role in CC development. FALSE.  The DoE cleverly disguised its involvement (see above), but the subterfuge is exposed by minimal research into DoE documents. Former Education Secretary Califano states: “The DoE has simply paid others to do that which it is forbidden [by statute] to do.”

FICTION:  There will be no new, intrusive, invasive data collection on students. FALSE. The Governor’s education assistant assured me that the Wyoming education bureaucracy will “enforce all aspects of” FERPA.  Conveniently, FERPA was amended in January, 2012, to “allow for greater disclosures of personal and directory student identifying information … [A]n institution may, under certain circumstances, designate and disclose student… unique personal identifiers…. The regulations also provide that a parent or student may not opt out of the disclosure of such directory information…[and also] allow for disclosure of [personally identifying information] without student or parent consent, where institutions have contracted with organizations to conduct studies…” (National Law Review). Look in your mirror and ask whether the same Federal government that has admitted (only under pressure) to spying on your email can be trusted with your child’s private, individual data, and can collect and share it without your consent? And, by the way, as a parent the law now says you may do nothing to prevent this?

FICTION: Common Core standards are superior to existing standards. FALSE. Bill Gates mused in September, 2013, “It would be great if our education stuff worked, but that we won’t know for probably a decade.” Gates’ Microsoft would never roll out a new operating system without millions of hours of beta testing. By his own admission, Common Core is an experiment, but Governor Mead and the Wyoming education bureaucracy tell us they know best and we must accept this monumental, experimental change. And if we don’t, we are “misinformed.”

Common Core’s adoption cedes all local control over Wyoming’s curriculum to a rigid, copyrighted, “one-size-fits-all” national educational colossus. It forecloses any current or future opportunity to use in-state or other Wyoming-chosen resources to design or participate in innovative, easily modified, and nationally and internationally superior curriculum. Wyoming students will now march with the crowd into uniformity, rigidity, conformity, and in the end, mediocrity (at best).

Parents in this state would never agree to this stunning loss of control, but despite claims of the bureaucracy, they have simply not been told. In one example I researched, the Wyoming Department of Education gave parents 22 days in 2010 to comment on nearly 700 pages of Common Core standards. This is just one of many similar occurrences during WDE’s supposed 3-year communication effort.

WDE owes citizens something better than a self-serving forum on February 13. Why not defend its views in a debate with informed opponents of Common Core, in front of the entire community. Three renowned Common Core experts are in Cheyenne through February 12. Bring them to Jackson for a real debate, and our local parents can decide for themselves just who is “misinformed.”

Dan Brophy

Well done Mr. Brophy!  Well done!

Wyoming Teacher asks Thought Provoking Questions on Common Core’s Implemenation

teacherletter

Diane Evans, a recently retired Wyoming educator, wrote a letter that speaks of concerns and addresses many questions we all should be asking about Common Core’s implementation. I hope that many people across our state and even nation will have the opportunity to read it.

A question one might ask after reading this is, “Why aren’t more teachers speaking out, or asking these same questions?” I know from personal experience that it is truly about fear of repercussions from those that are, “just doing their job”, and implementing something that shouldn’t be in our schools in the first place. Of course there are those that believe that Common Core will be the next best thing for education, using words such as “rigor”, “global competiveness“, and “national collaboration”. Those words are the sign of those that have not looked into the un-American way CC was brought to our local schools. These are the same talking points that the creators and funders of CC would have you believe are the reason we need this sweeping change to education standards. There are even those teachers that claim that since using CC wonderful things have happened in their classrooms. Those things could have happened without the government mandating the change, along with more data collection, federally funded curriculum and testing, and loss of local control of education, stifling the voice of parents, teachers, and school boards.

Read Diane’s heartfelt questions and concerns:

February 4, 2014

 To Whom It May Concern:

 As a former Wyoming educator, I have several questions concerning the implementation of the common core standards and why the federal government is pushing so hard to centralize the power of education away from local control and into Washington.  The Federal Government needs to be up front with the people in answering these questions.

 What is the reasoning behind all the student data collection?  Teachers are inundated with record keeping and student data collection.  What is the real purpose behind this?  How is it improving the education system and how is it going to be used?  What types of data are being collected?  How concerned should parents be about the use of that data?  

 Why has the Federal Government pushed schools so hard to implement these standards and offered financial incentives to do so?   What has happened to the local control and parental empowerment in our education system?  Why is Washington centralizing more education power to the federal government?  What is our entire education system going to look like in the next five to ten years?  Will national standardized tests force identical curriculum mandates across the nation?  If so, who will choose that curriculum? 

 Concerned parents need to be asking these questions.  They need to ask for real answers and transparency when it comes to the education of their children.  I am concerned at the lack of transparency from not only the federal government, but the state governing bodies as well.  Our elected officials need to represent the people with openness and honesty concerning the common core standards and their long term goals and effects on the education system. 

 Hopefully, these questions will be answered honestly and parents will have a clear picture of what the schools will look like in the near future.  Hopefully, parents will begin their own research into this issue and take a stand for the education of their children.  As educators, we encourage students to think “out of the box.”  This new push for equality, squelching creativity in the classroom, and placing the control of our education system into the hands of the federal government might just put them back into that box.  Let’s do the research and find out the answers to the many questions that are looming over the implementation of these standards and why the big push for the federal government to take over the control in this area. 

Sincerely,

Diane Evans

Cody, Wyoming

Tracking Your Child from Preschool into the Workforce in the name of Improving Education

Tracking Your Child from Preschool into the Workforce in the Name of Improving Education

KellySimoneOp-Ed by Kelly Simone

As the debate over the Common Core State Standards heats up both nationally and across the State of Wyoming, elected officials have cause to take notice. Parents, teachers, administrators and citizens are growing increasingly concerned about this nationally driven attempt at education reform. The local control we once enjoyed has been turned over. Interestingly, little attention has been given to the creation of a State Longitudinal Data System (SLDS) that is now being built in Wyoming.

The State Longitudinal Data System is a direct result of Wyoming’s agreement to take State Fiscal Stabilization Funds under the 2009 American Reinvestment and Recovery Act. Wyoming agreed to build this data collecting behemoth when they took $57 million dollars from the federal government.

The purpose of the SLDS is to collect and store data on students that can be used to analyze education policy. This data will be collected on children beginning before kindergarten and continue for four years into the workforce. It makes sense that policy makers would want to know if the Common Core State Standards are really ensuring “college and career readiness”….especially when they’ve never been field tested in any U.S. classroom. So you may ask, why do we need to collect data on Wyoming public school students from Pre-K into the workforce? Answer: to document whether or not this experiment on our students actually works.

More concerning, is the fact that over 20 state agencies are now signing a contract (MOU) to begin sharing data. This is unprecedented and in fact was never before possible, due to FERPA law. This law was designed to protect private student information. However, the US Dept. of Education amended FERPA law in 2012, so that state agencies can now share data. Interestingly, the US Dept. of Education did this through a regulations change, not an act of Congress.

The obvious question then becomes; what state agencies will now be sharing this information? The answer is currently, more than 20. In fact, additional agencies can request to become a party to this data sharing agreement. Right now, the Wyoming Department of Family Services, Workforce Services and Health are only among a few who will now be able to view and share data on Wyoming public school students.

In the 2012 budget session, the Wyoming Legislature approved Enrolled Act 29. In that budget was an appropriation to fund the SLDS, but it was buried in section 326. The appropriation was for over $5 million. Data collection on Wyoming students is authorized by Wyoming statute W.S.21-2-204 section (h). This statute authorizes the collection & usage of student data for educational purposes. However, the scope of the SLDS far surpasses educational purposes. How does the ability of Wyoming Department of Health to access and view student data improve a child’s public school education? The inclusion of non-education and non-assessment data in this repository is beyond an overreach of government control- it’s an invasion of privacy.

All parents, teachers, administrators and elected officials ought to seek to understand the risks involved when collecting massive amounts of data on citizens. The benefits are arguable, but the ramifications are serious. Instead of spending millions of taxpayer dollars on funding the SLDS, perhaps the state would do better to fund things that really help our students succeed.

For a document outlining the concerns with the SLDS, please visit: http://wyomingcitizensopposingcommoncore.com/concerns-slds/

Sincerely,

Kelly Simone

Wyoming Citizens Opposing Common Core

Kelly Simone is a practicing Physician Assistant in Urgent Care Medicine.  She is  a Jackon Hole High School alumni.   She has two daughters, ages 6 & 8, and they are THE REASON she has dedicated much of her time to researching data changes and education reform in Wyoming and our nation.  Kelly and her husband have been married for almost 11 years, and currently reside in Cody, Wyoming. 

WY LCSD#2 Publishes Letter to Legislators!

LCSD#2

An exciting development for our state and movement against education reform!  Lincoln County School District #2’s Board of Trustees and Chairman, Alan Linford, have written a letter to our state legislators.  The letter states they, “feel some decisions have been made, and others are currently being proposed, that remove elements of local control and limit our ability as a Board and district to best meet the needs of our students and stakeholders.” 

I am thrilled to hear a board make that statement rather than be resigned to the postion they are currently in with top-down education reform.  They are elected to speak for their communities, even if they feel like throwing their hands up and saying,”It’s out of our control!”   BRAVO!!  Read the letter below:

January 14, 2014

Dear State Legislators:
As a school board we appreciate the challenges associated with trying to ensure that all students in Wyoming receive the best possible education. Lincoln County School District #2 shares that goal, and prides itself on being a high performing district while adhering to local, state, and federal rules and regulations. Additionally, we recognize that the state of Wyoming generously funds education and understand the expected accountability that accompanies this funding. We appreciate the generous funding level and support being accountable for our educational outcomes. We feel some decisions have been made, and others are currently being proposed, that remove elements of local control and limit our ability as a Board and district to best meet the needs of our students and stakeholders.

From our perspective, requirements from the state and federal levels appear to be constantly increasing and changing. It is getting increasingly more difficult for a district of our size to comply with all of the state and federal requirements, while continuing to improve outcomes for students. While we respect your role as legislators, we also value local control which enables us to meet the expectations of our stakeholders. We ask that you please consider our concerns in the upcoming legslative session.
We are also concerned about the ever-changing targets that we as a local district are facing. It seems like we are in a constant state of flux when it comes to standards, assessment, accountability, and other educational issues. We ask that you set direction, with input from all stakeholders, and then hold the course so that we have time to implement the things you are requiring. It is very taxing and counter-productive when we try to respond to state and federal mandates only to have them change before we complete the journey. While we wish to meet your high expectations, which often align with our own, it is increasingly difficult when the expectations change frequently.

Some of our stakeholders have some additional concerns that we would like you be be aware of. They are listed below.

• Data Privacy: Data should be strictly confidential and should only be shared within the state for education related purposes by those with a need-to-know-basis. It is imperative that personally identifiable information not be revealed or accessed by those outside of our school, district, or state.

• Top-down Approach: Intrusion from outside entities is an obstacle to improving educational outcomes in our district. The solution is not more top-down intrusion, no matter how well-intentioned, from any level of government.

• Stakeholder Involvement: Parents and other stakeholders want to continue to have a high-level of involvment in the decision-making process when it comes to educating our children.

Once again, we acknowledge the generosity with which you fund schools. We will continue to make every effort to provide our students with the world-class education that they deserve. Thanks for your consideration of our concerns.

Sincerely,
Lincoln County School District #2 Board of Trustees
Alan Linford, Chairman