"But if it is believed that these elementary schools will be better managed by...any other general authority of the government, than by the parents within each ward [district], it is a belief against all experience." --Thomas Jefferson

Monday, January 22, 2018

Common Core IS NOT Dead, Board Goals, State Issues

A lot is going on in education.  Most importantly, tomorrow, Tuesday, Jan. 23, our Board will have a retreat to set goals for the district for 2018.  Please email me or reply on facebook with what goals you would like us to set.  (I can bring up to 2 goals, but I would like to see all your thoughts.)

I'm going to give you a brief summary of what's going on Locally, Statewide and Nationally in education.


  1. Board Retreat, setting Board Goals.  Review of 21st Century Learning/STEAM schools.  It is the school district's plan to convert all of our schools into 21st Century/STEAM schools.  Right now, Cedar Ridge, Ridgeline and Highland (if I recall) in my area are all 21st Century Learning.  This means more project-based learning, less memorization, more technology and a focus on the 6 C's: Collaboration, Communication, Critical Thinking, Creativity, Citizenship, Character.  

I, personally, have grave concerns with more tech in schools, especially with the emphasis on character traits and values, as evidenced by the 6 C's and the national ESSA (replacement for No Child Left Behind) requirements.  More on ESSA below.  Here is an interesting read on Critical Thinking that I agree with.  https://www.memoriapress.com/articles/the-critical-thinking-skills-hoax/

2. The Board set up a Local Building Authority last meeting to facilitate paying for the rebuild of Scera Park Elementary in Orem without raising taxes or going through a bond.  You can read more about it on my blog: https://wendy4asd.blogspot.com/2018/01/local-building-authority.html

3. This is an election year.  4 Alpine Board Seats will be up for election this year, as well as 1 State Board seat in our area.  I would like to encourage everyone to take a moment and think seriously about running for office.  The 4 ASD Seats are: Saratoga Springs/Eagle Mountain (currently held by Paula Hill who will not be running again), American Fork (currently held by John Burton), West Orem (currently held by JoDee Sundberg), and Highland/Alpine/Cedar Hills (currently my seat).  As always,  I welcome any and all to throw their hats into the ring.  Civil public debate is the BEST way to get the best ideas working for our kids.  The State Board seat is currently held by Joel Wright and covers most of ASD, except Orem and a small part out West.  Government of the people, by the people and for the people requires not just a few people involved, but all of us.  And the Founders expected that people would rotate their service in public office.  The deadline to file is mid-March.

  1. The State is close to releasing the new science standards for grades 5, 9-12.  Since the Grade 6-8 standards are a rewording of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), it is my personal belief that the Board will adopt, without hesitation, the NGSS for these grades as well.  I have many concerns about these standards, but the biggest one is that Utah currently scores higher on ACT science than any state that also tests 100% of its juniors, not just those who self-select as wanting to go to college.  (That means our scores will be lower, on average, than those states that let kids decide whether to take the ACT or not.)  We also score higher than the national average on the science portion of the ACT.  So, I'm unsure why we would adopt standards that show other states doing more poorly.  Not to mention that the math is almost non-existent, as are body systems, chemistry and physics.  Also, Utah's current science standards (except Grades 6-8) received a B grade.  NGSS received a C from Fordham Foundation.  You can read more by searching NGSS on my blog: https://wendy4asd.blogspot.com/search?q=ngss  Here's the video from when we adopted Grades 6-8: https://wendy4asd.blogspot.com/2015/11/utahs-new-science-standards-national.html  The arguments are the same.  Please share with your friends and neighbors and ask them to contact the state board: board@schools.utah.gov to express their concern or their support.  If you are supportive, I would love to know why and where the NGSS has worked and by what measures it has worked.
  2. The State's ESSA plan was rejected, in large part, due to our opting out of SAGE.  Rather than finding out why parents don't want their kids to take SAGE, the Board is looking at renaming SAGE.  They have hired a new testing vendor, Questar, to continue with the SAGE testing, but the terms of the proposal indicate we need to continue to use the same questions as SAGE.  So, new vendor, same questions, new name.  
  3. Associated with that, the State Board is deciding how they want to handle the ESSA rejection by the Feds.  Please remember, when ESSA was being passed, everyone said that it returned Local Control of education to the states.  Those of us who opposed it said that it wouldn't.  What does everyone think now?  The options are 1) Ask the US Dept of Ed for a waiver for the opt out provisions, 2) Tell the Feds we don't want their Title 1 money and ask the Legislature to make up the difference in funding (my preference) or 3) Change state law to REQUIRE parents to submit their kids to SAGE testing against their will (Land of the Free?)  I have good reason to believe that if the State Board were to play their cards right, the Feds would be hard-pressed to hold back funding for the lowest socio-economic strata of kids in the lowest funded state in the nation.  But they'll try. 
  4. The Legislature is in session.  1300 bills opened about education, if I remember correctly.  Please pay attention and email your legislators.  I'm sure there will be a desire to limit opting out of SAGE testing and other measures designed to limit parents in their primary role of raising their kids.

  1. ESSA requires a measurement for non-cognitive measures.  Just watch how everything will be focused on things like GRIT and perseverance, as well as technology.  The "nice" thing about technology is that you can have second-by-second information about your kid sent to a computer program to determine if your kid has the right attitudes, values and beliefs.  The desire to have knowledge is over.  "The most controversial issues of the twenty-first century will pertain to the ends and means of modifying human behavior and who shall determine them. The first educational question will not be 'what knowledge is of the most worth?' but 'what kinds of human beings do we wish to produce?' The possibilities virtually defy our imagination." (John I. Goodlad) 
  2. Secretary DeVos declares the "Common Core is dead!"  It's not.  Not by a long shot, and that is in large part due to ESSA.  You can read more about that here:  https://truthinamericaneducation.com/common-core-state-standards/betsy-devos-aei-american-enterprise-institute/  Please share this information with friends and neighbors.  Most BAD Educational ideas never die.  They just get renamed, rebranded and shilled to the public again as the "latest and greatest" education silver bullet.  

Local Building Authority

On January 9, 2018, our Alpine School Board decided to create a Local Building Authority (LBA).  The main reason behind this is to rebuild Scera Park Elementary in Orem in order to consolidate that population of students with Hillcrest.  Hillcrest will be closed but the property will be retained for future use.  Since the original consolidation plan included many more schools and the possible sale of the Hillcrest property, the savings from those closures and the sale of the property would have allowed the Board to pay cash to rebuild Scera Park.  As such, the savings from closing Hillcrest will be close to $800,000 each year, but insufficient to rebuild an school at the cost of $18M.  So, the LBA was created to accomplish this goal.

An LBA is allowed under state law and allows the Board to finance things over time without using property tax increases as collateral for the debt.  School districts in this state are not allowed to use a regular debt scenario like you and I do for a mortgage or a construction loan.  We have to either pay everything off within a year (short-term loan) or use a tax-related funding process.  We could also do something called a revenue loan which would work if we were building a rec center and we could use the fees (the revenue) from that rec center as the payment.

You can read all the information, including the By-Laws and the Articles of Incorporation here. (See Local Building Authority Mtg Documents.pdf)  The LBA is subject to the same open meeting laws as the ASD Board, and all LBA meetings will be held at the same location and place as the ASD Board meetings, when an LBA meeting is required.

The essence is this.  The ASD Board of Education (ASD Board) members automatically become the Board of Trustees of the Alpine Local Building Authority (LBA).  So as members are elected and so forth, the make-up of the LBA changes accordingly.  I had concerns about the ability of the LBA to remove board members and that language was removed from our documents.  The action of the Board on the 9th simply created a non-profit corporation, the LBA.  At the Jan. 23 meeting of the LBA, the proposal will be to seek a loan for the purpose of rebuilding Scera Park.  The LBA gets the "mortgage" for Scera Park and the school is the collateral for the loan.  The ASD Board then signs a lease with the LBA for Scera Park, paying the amount required to cover the cost of the Scera Park loan.  Then the LBA gets the amount agreed to in the lease from the ASD Board and pays the lender for the Scera Park loan.  The LBA, as a non-profit, makes no money in the transaction.  The lease is also written so that upon payment of the loan in full, Scera Park will automatically transfer ownership from the LBA to the ASD Board.  This allows the amount saved from consolidating Hillcrest of nearly $800,000 to be used, annually, to pay off, over time, the Scera Park rebuild.

My opinion of the Pros.  The advantages I see are: 1) The Hillcrest consolidation savings are used to pay-off Scera Park. 2) There is no tax increase required for this transaction and the savings in one area of the budget can be used to pay for buildings.  Currently, this could only be done if we chose to pay cash completely for the building.  We could use our rainy-day fund to pay for Scera Park upfront, and then take 18 years to pay it back.  That decreases our rainy-day fund by about 20% with no guarantee that it would be repaid.  The decrease would also negatively impact our credit rating for future bond rates.  3) It allows for building construction to begin more quickly without going through a bond election and so forth.  In theory, if we had the funds in the budget from savings in other areas, some of the West's growth could be accommodated by accelerating buildings without waiting for the bond cycle in 2020.

My opinion of the Cons.  1) The LBA only requires 24 hour notice for actions that regular board meetings are given.  The LBA can go into debt for any number of buildings, additions, appurtenances either inside or outside the district boundaries with a simple majority vote by the LBA board (aka the ASD Board).  2) The Board could use the LBA to finance things that do not take precedence on a bond by the public.  In short, it could skew our building priorities to reflect more internal priorities instead of those demanded by the people.  Some of the things that might be financed by the LBA board which the public hasn't wanted to see in a bond would be: Clear Creek renovation, District Office renovation, etc.  As long as there is a revenue stream that will cover the annual debt payments to the LBA, the Board can finance things as it sees fit.  This is the essence of Local Control, but it also requires diligence from the people in making sure those who are elected to the Board have an understanding of what they should and shouldn't do in this arena.

By way of information, the following entities have set up LBAs.
Duchesne School District
Granite School District
Jordan School District
Morgan School District
Ogden School District
Piute School District
Sevier School District
South Sanpete School District
South Summit School District
Tooele School District
Uintah School District
Grand County