A forum for Utah Moms to learn, discuss and act on legislation that will affect their families.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Utah is Adopting New Core Standards

Right now the State Board of Education is working to adopt new Core Standards!  These standards are NOT the Common Core and they WERE created here in Utah.

Do you believe it?!?!

Well it's true.

These new standards deal specifically with World Languages.  If you have a student in a dual immersion program or taking a foreign language, take a minute to review these new standards.

The State Board of Education has been begging for input from parents, but have received back very few comments. They want your thoughts.  They value your input.

To read the proposed standards visit: here.  All comments must be emailed in to by April 1st.
11:14 AM Posted by Karen 0

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Utah's New Public School Complaint Department!

Picture by: FindYourSearch
The last night of the session late in the night a bill squeezed through by one vote, and hackles were raised.

S.B.257 Parent Review of Instructional Materials and Curriculum from Sen. Howard Stephenson sounds pretty innocuous.  It asks a parent review committee that already exists to look at complaints raised on materials and curriculum.  The bill also requires that the State Office of Education post on their website a report of the complaints they receive and the actions taken.

What's the big deal?

First, the committee now tasked with reviewing complaints is the parent committee that is required to read the computer adaptive assessment test questions.  I posted about that committee here.  They met this past summer and spent 40 hours reading over 10,000 test questions looking for anything concerning.  The parents on this committee already have a huge assignment for volunteers.  Additionally, this new task required of them is not aligned with what they are already doing.  They would be required to look into text books and curriculum. Which brings us to concern number two....

Curriculum and instructional materials are dictated by local school boards and charter boards.  The State Office of Education creates a huge list of recommended materials, but all decisions and approval of instructional materials are made at the local level.  A committee containing parents does exist at the State Office called the Instruction Materials Commission, which was also created by code.  This committee works on the list of recommended materials, but this committee is not mentioned in the bill.

According to the bill any parent can submit a complaint to the parent review committee.  Knowing the furor over the Common Core, this committee will probably be inundated with complaints.  A small number will probably be very valid.  But so what?  
How should a state committee of parents tasked with reviewing assessment questions decide if a complaint from a parent about locally used textbooks or curriculum decide appropriateness?  If the complaint has to do with an online source the source could be ever evolving - how should those sources be evaluated?  The bill says absolutely nothing about how a review would take place.  The bill does not even say the committee will look at the adopted standards to see if the questioned material aligns.  The bill gives absolutely NO criteria on how the review committee should even handle complaints.  

Finally, the bill gives no deference to local control - and it's from one of the loudest advocates FOR local control in the Legislature.  Complaints about instructional materials and textbooks should be lodged with those who selected them.  The bill seems counter-intuitive.  

No one is arguing that parents should not have a place to raise concerns regarding instructional materials and curriculum.  Parents should.  But parents should also have a right to have those concerns heard by the correct people and with a clear process for redress.  This bill provides neither of those things.  Instead, all concerned parents are left with is a committee that was originally tasked to do one thing turned into a complaint department for the State Office of Education that has no instructions on how to move forward with their complaint AND no power to address their concerns.

This bill ends up being a disservice to both parents with complaints as well as to the parents who are willing to volunteer to serve on the assessment review committee.  Does this raise your hackles, too?  

There has been a call for this bill to be vetoed by the Governor.  To contact the Governor's Office, call 801-538-1000 and simply let the secretary know you are requesting a veto for S.B. 257 Parent Review of Instructional Materials and Curriculum.    
9:59 AM Posted by Karen 4

Monday, March 10, 2014

From Anti-Common Core to Pro-Common Core to Whatever

Rep. Dana Layton
What a journey HB342 has taken this session.
Anti-Common Core
When HB342 was first released the education community freaked and those opposing the Common Core rejoiced.  The bill would have required the State Board of Education to revise the core standards in the next two years.  This bill generated a giant fiscal note (standard creation and adoption is expensive).  There was also an incredibly uncomfortable public meeting between Rep. Layton and the State Board of Education.
Flash forward to committee.
Pro-Common Core
Right before HB342 was to be heard in the House Education Committee, Rep. Layton unveiled a substitute of her bill.  The substitute, in essence, gutted her original proposal. All that was left in was the creation of a timeline and parent review committees on each of the core areas (ex. language arts, math, science). There was confusion in the House hearing if that meant the State Office of Education would be managing large numbers of parents as they staffed these many committees, or if it was one singular committee. The bill had no fiscal note, which also raised concerns. The public testimony in the hearing was mixed, many who had come to speak in favor of the first proposal felt shafted by the substitute. After the committee ended the anger grew, as those opposing the Common Core felt sold out.
The bill was then substituted AGAIN.  Prior to its hearing in the House, Layton changed the bill to try and mend fences.  It included the language, "Among the criteria a standards review committee shall consider when reviewing core curriculum standards is giving students an adequate foundation to successfully pursue college, a career, or whatever a student plans to do after high school."
Whatever?  If a student plans to backpack around Europe and live in hostels after high school, the core curriculum standards should prepare them for that?  Maybe by having them take laps around the track wearing a backpack then not allowing them to use the showers?
The bill was amended in the House to read, "or other life pursuits" instead of whatever.  While the language is less clunky, does it really change the meaning?
At this point, 'whatever' about sums up the bill.  It will be curious to see if this is one of those bills that mysteriously disappear as they make the journey from the House to the Senate.  It seems both sides may be happy with that......
1:09 PM Posted by Karen 0