A recent press release from the Utah Education Coalition contains errors and misinformation about Utah’s core standards, assessments and privacy regulations. Here are my responses to this release:
1. Personally identifiable student data has never been shared with or requested by the federal government. Utah retains control over student data. While there have been some recent revisions to FERPA regulations, the law still clearly states who has access to information and under what circumstances. Still in all cases the law is “permissive” not “obligatory;” that is, Utah may share the data but it is never obliged to share it. Utah won’t share the data without compelling reasons and then only within the strictest confines of federal law.
2. The State Board of Education has control over the standards and assessments for Utah. The State Board can and will change them as needed without outside group or federal approval. The State Board is solely responsible for overseeing the implementation of the standards in our state.
3. Utah has not lost its autonomy over standards and assessments. Utah reviews and updates core standards on a regular basis – typically improving and raising the bar on what Utah students need to know. The Utah core standards for Mathematics and Reading/English Language Arts were approved during the Board’s August 6 meeting. The State Board adopted them based on the quality of the standards. They were not adopted due to federal pressure, federal recommendations or federal money.
4. The Utah core standards:
- May be changed by the State Board at any time.
- Were not developed, funded or mandated by the federal government.
- Are not federal or national standards.
- Were not obligatory because of Utah’s Race to the Top application.
- Are not under the control or manipulation of special interest groups.
- Are not obligatory because of Utah’s NCLB flexibility request application.
In a letter dated March 7, 2012, Arne Duncan, the Secretary of the United States Department of Education affirmed that “states have the sole right to set learning standards.” In Utah’s flexibility request we informed the Department of Education that we have chosen to use our Utah core standards. If and when the State Board decides to change or revise Utah’s standards they will do so.
5. Occasionally, the Department of Education has wrongly and problematically appeared to take credit for the standards. For example, an application for a federal grant for development of assessments erroneously stated that the standards were released by the Department of Education. This has led to confusion over who wrote the core. Stephanie Shipton from the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) reaffirmed in an email to the Utah State Office of Education (USOE) on March 27, 2012, “The statement ‘Common Core Standards released by the Department of Education’ is factually incorrect (assuming you are referring to the U.S. Department of Education). The NGA Center and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) hold the copyright. In addition, the U.S. Department of Education played no role in the development process (including but not limited to financial contributions, input on the standards, and input on the process).”
6. Utah applied to receive a Race to the Top (RTTT) grant, but did not receive one. At a federal government level, the Department of Education has in the past two years issued grants that encourage the use of the Common Core, Charter Schools, Educator Evaluation systems that include accountability for student growth, performance incentives, interventions for low-performing schools and other initiatives. Utah is under no obligation associated with RTTT and does not receive any RTTT funds.
7. Utah is using the state procurement process to implement a new assessment system and to determine future assessment purchases. Utah participates in a consortium of states to develop assessments and a computer adaptive assessment system. The consortium called SBAC receives federal funds from a federal grant. Utah signed a document agreeing to participate in the development of the Smarter Balanced Assessment System. Utah agreed to use the assessments if the state is still an SBAC governing state in the 2014-2015 school year. Utah may withdraw from the consortium at any time through a formal exit process. To date, six states have terminated their participation in the consortium with a 1-7 day process. Utah can choose to use SBAC or reject it.