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!

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. 

Letter to School Board Members on Data and Privacy

Below is the letter that I read to the Board of Trustees for Sweetwater County School District Number One. This is something that ALL parents and community members should be aware of and concerned about. Our local school boards will be entering into an agreement (MOU) that they have not officially agreed too. In doing so, they are giving away their power to represnt YOU as parents and community members, especially when it comes to your children’s data. We aren’t talking about the data they have always taken on our children.  This is a statewide inter-operable (shares with other agencies) system that will share ALL information that could include a health record or disciplinary record from P20 (preschool through college and the workforce) system.

You may read the letter below or listen to me present to the board in the video recording my husband took (forgive the amateur video – but the sound system is great!)

Board Members,

My name is Christy Hooley and I am a teacher from Sweetwater County School District #2.  I taught both 5th and 6th grade at Monroe Intermediate School.   I recently resigned my position to focus on an issue that is dear to my heart, the Common Core State Standards and the various issues it brings to teachers and students across our state and nation.  In doing so I have found others that have the same concerns, and I stand here representing the group, Wyoming Citizens Opposing Common Core.

One of these key issues that comes along with the CCSS is the creation of the State Longitudinal Database that will be inter-operable with other agencies.   Due to some questions arising from this concern the Wyoming Department of Education released a document entitled “Data Governance” for districts to distribute to parents concerned about data. The document covers four “Commonly Asked Questions about Student Data”.  While I appreciate the effort of the WDE to be both transparent and informative, the document does not cover many key issues, nor does it provide any links or references as to fact check sources.

These issues should be addressed and communicated to parents in our community as well as around the state. The creation of the State Longitudinal Data System is a key issue in education reform, and parents have many questions surrounding its creation and use.  Please look over the MOU (memorandum of understanding), which is an agreement between 20+ state agencies to begin sharing student data via the State Longitudinal Data System.  You will find that it states, The creation of the P20 SLDS is called for in the 2012 Legislative Session Enrolled Act 29 Section 326. The creation of P20 SLDS and data sharing shall fulfill the requirements established by the Wyoming Accountability in Education Act”

 Basically, what you have in front of you, to the best mine and our group’s knowledge is… that all of the data that is collected by the local school districts, which you represent, will go into this system.  The Department of Ed is going to sign for you…in doing so you stating that all  agencies listed can receive information.  This is a serious local control issue, this document says districts are required to collect this information, but you are not required to sign this agreement.   This is the information on our kids and families, and it is not just being distributed to every educational entity in the state of Wyoming, but to Department of Workforce Services, Department of Family Services, Department of Health, and any other agency they deem.  This is something that should be brought to the public’s attention as well as our representatives.  I implore that you make this a priority quickly!

As you may be aware I have been giving presentations in our community and around our state concerning education reform and its most recent reform with the Common Core State Standards.  I am often asked questions that I cannot answer by concerned parents.  You are elected to represent our community, and should know the concerns that I’m often approached with.  I would like to give you an opportunity to address these concerns.

 These are questions that I would pose as “Commonly Asked” by parents in our district and across our state:

1) What is the purpose of the State Longitudinal Data System?

2) The recent changes to FERPA by the US Department of Education has allowed for sharing of student data in the SLDS. What state agencies will now be sharing student data?

3) What data dictionary will be used to collect student data from the districts to the WDE for the SLDS?

4) How are parents notified of what data will be collected from their student at the district level and sent to the state?

5) How does WDE notify parents if a data breach occurs?

6) What legal recourse/penalties does an agency face in the event of a data breach on a child’s educational record?

7) How long is student data stored, and how is it destroyed once it is no longer needed?

8) What third party entities have access to student data via the SLDS?

This is the heart of the concerns that parents have about data being collected on their children. The recent changes to FERPA undermine parental consent provisions. It is my understanding that there is not currently Wyoming law that outlines data breach reporting requirements or penalties in the event that a breach occurs. I would ask you as a board to seek answers to these questions from the WDE Data Governance Contacts.

Furthermore, I would ask that you familiarize yourself with the Privacy Bill known as Senate File 36 that was discussed by the Committee on Statewide Education Accountability on Dec. 10th.  It does not include the SLDS, and therefore does not do enough to protect our children’s data. If a health record becomes part of a student’s educational file, it is no longer protected. I would recommend that all student disciplinary and health records be exempt from educational records and remain confidential under all circumstances.

I am not suggesting that Wyoming is sharing this data currently, however there is nothing strong preventing them from doing so, plus school systems are moving more and more to commonality and disaggregating (personally identifiable) student data.  This can be seen by all those partnered with the Data Quality Campaign and policies held by the Council of Chief State School Officers. 

I invite each one of you to attend my next presentation, so you may also become informed on both sides of the education reform issues and better understand the questions and concerns parents may come to you with.  I will be presenting next on January 24th at 7PM at the Green River Library and again at the White Mountain Library in Rock Springs on January 30th, at 7PM.

I hope to hear back from you concerning this extremely important issue.

Thank you,

Christy Hooley

www.wyomingagainstcommoncore.wordpress.com

www.wyomingcitizensopposingcommoncore.com