Friday, May 24, 2013


One of the common failings among honorable people is a failure to appreciate how thoroughly dishonorable some other people can be, and how dangerous it is to trust them. 
~Thomas Sowell

Sir Ken Robinson How to Escape Educations Death Valley...


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Human Capital +School to Work =Planned Economies =Communism

Michael Chapman explains the global ties of Common Core. Human Capital= being trained for your station in life. This is terminology that our governor is using in Utah. 

Framework for a Multistate Human Capital Development

In addition to the utter offensiveness of all this, you could give the government the best predictive tools in the entire world and it will never discover where the next industry will be or what people should study to be part of it. My husband took his SEOP test in Jr. High and he was told that he should be a forest ranger. I am so glad that he decided to think for himself. The job he does did not even exist when he was in Jr. High. We are not Human Capital. Our children are NOT human capital. We are free human beings and children of God meant to use our genius to soar! ~Tiffany

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Mental Health Clinician Talks about Common Core

Please watch this video about the Zaner-Bloser reading/writing program called Voices which has been approved for use in Utah.

HERE is a mental health clinician's view of this writing program and Common Core.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

The USOE response to my concerns over ELA standards...

... and what I wrote back.

I got a very nice letter back from the USOE ( see letter below) about my concerns over Utah's new English Language Arts standards that are part of the new CCSS. However, the letter did not alleviate any of my concerns. The standard that bothers me is the 70/30 balance of "Informational Texts" to classics ratio. This is what the state says:

From: Tiffany Hall, MA, M.Ed.
K-12 Literacy Coordinator
Teaching and Learning
Utah State Office of Education

The study of literature is not limited or reduced by the Standards.
Rather, we are looking at a more comprehensive view of literacy that
includes a focus on reading information text in all content areas—and
not just reading, but reading and writing with purpose and understanding
in every subject area. You are correct that we already have these
informational  books; we are now focusing on using them more
effectively, and in supplementing them with authentic reading from the
appropriate content discipline.

The evidence of this can be found in the  Utah Core Standards , which
you can read here:

I’d like to guide you to a few specific places for evidence relative to
your concerns about literature and instruction in English Language Arts
(ELA) and how the /Utah Core Standards/ are focused on creating a
culture of literacy in schools.

On page 3, the /Standards/ state “The /Standards/ insist that
instruction in reading, writing, speaking, listening, and language be a
shared responsibility within the school. The K–5 standards include
expectations for reading, writing, speaking, listening, and language
applicable to a range of subjects, including but not limited to ELA. The
grades 6–12 standards are divided into two sections, one for ELA and the
other for history/social studies, science, and technical subjects. This
division reflects the unique, time-honored place of ELA teachers in
developing students’ literacy skills while at the same time recognizing
that _teachers in other areas_ must have a role in this development as

This section continues on page 4, where there is a table indicating the
recommended distribution of literary and informational passages by
grade. This table shows a 50-50% split between literary and
informational text in grade 4; 45-55% in grade 8; and 30-70% in grade
12. However, this refers to reading _over the entire school day_/, /not
in a student’s English Language Arts course alone.
  The Standards strive
to balance the “reading

of literature with the reading of informational texts, including texts
in history/social studies, science, and technical subjects...” The level
and quality of reading informational text in all subjects is a critical
element of creating independent readers who can read and understand a
wide variety of texts that are present in career and college settings.

All that sounds pretty but... 

Ms. Hall,

I appreciate your long and thoughtful response to my question, but it does not alleviate my fears at all. These are called ELA standards. You are telling me that the 50/50 and 70/30 burden is going to be shared with teachers in other content areas. It makes me wonder if members of the USOE have been in a school recently. You are going to hand over the teaching of reading and writing to P.E. teachers, wood-shop teachers and math teachers? You would have to in order to meet that 70/30.

Math teachers barely have time to cover their own material. In addition coaches, shop teachers and others don't have "standards" under the CCSS. USOE members have told parents repeatedly that these are ONLY ELA and Math standards, not history, social science etc.

In addition, this interdisciplinary method makes the testing pointless. How are you going to know which teachers are truly effective by mixing all the subject matter into one big jumble? It's a great way to play "pass the buck", but not a great way to track effective teaching.

Please don't tell me that the districts will be expanding the "My Access" program. It is my fear that more time and money will be wasted on this program in order to fill the standard requirement in name. The person who came up with that idea should be sitting in jail for malpractice. Computers cannot teach writing.

I think the mistake being made here is one of intent versus reality. The intent to have teachers who can teach reading and writing in every subject is a laudable goal, but the reality is students are lucky to get an English teacher that can impart that knowledge.

I took honors English through school and there was quite a lot of reading. I was also reading in science, history and political science, but you simply can't make a 70/30 divide without cutting classics.
And, the reality is that the burden will fall on English teachers.

So, how will this breakdown be measured and how will it be enforced? And, if isn't going to be measured and enforced, why not alleviate the fears of parents and educators and drop it from the standards?

Cutting classics is the goal of "reformers" like David Coleman who are making untold fortunes as architects of CCSS. His views on reading and writing have been widely published, "As you grow up in this world you realize people really don’t give a shit about what you feel or what you think." --David Coleman at NY State Department of Education presentation, April 2011. Through the CCSS, this is someone who has very unfortunate views and views that he should keep to himself and not inflict on Utah students.

In addition to radical views on ELA standards, these "reformers" have other ideas they want to share with students. Publishers are creating "Informational Texts" that are coming into Utah in the form of little booklets and have been approved for use in the classroom. I don't know if any districts have picked them up yet, but I have seen these texts supporting a very far left political agenda. I have attached photos.

The first photo I've sent is of an "informational text" about The Highlander Center, "In the 1960s and 1970s, Highlander began to focus on worker health and safety in the coalfields of Appalachia. Its leaders played a role in the emergence of the region's environmental justice movement. It helped start the Southern Appalachian Leadership Training (SALT) program, and coordinated a survey of land ownership in Appalachia. In the 1980s and 1990s, Highlander broadened from that base into broader regional, national, and international environmentalism; struggles against the negative effects of globalization; grassroots leadership development in under-resourced communities; and beginning in the 1990s, an involvement in LGBT issues, both in the U.S. and internationally."

The other photos are pretty self explanatory. These "informational texts" are a far cry from the classics and they are far left social engineering that Utah parents will not appreciate.

It is a wonder to me that the USOE could jump on these standards in some cases before they were even written and not have fully vetted those behind this movement.

I don't see Common Core as anything but a disaster. Utah needs to get out. We can do better.

Tiffany Mouritsen

photos attached: 

Friday, May 3, 2013

Common Core ELA Standards Letter to Governor Herbert

Governor Herbert,

Literature was the focus of my university studies and I am shocked and frustrated that Common Core Standards will limit the study of the classics to 30% of what it has been in the past. The Common Core ELA standards are equal to book burning. A teacher does have the ability to choose To Kill A Mocking Bird OR A Tale of Two Cities, but they will have to choose. They won't have time to expose students to both. The amount of literature students had the time to study to was already so small.

It is a tragedy. The fact that our educators don't understand the value of great writing shows the cancer that has invaded our current system, a movement to create a Godless, valueless society where only vulgarity passes as art.

Great writing creates great writers. We learn how to write best from studying great literature. We learn about shared values. We learn the consequences of both good and bad choices without having to experiment personally. We learn about our rich culture and heritage when we study the works of Robert Frost and Emily Dickinson and others.

Can a presidential executive order or some tract from the EPA really replace the wisdom that can be learned from Tolkien or Shakespeare? Will students even continue to read if dry technical writing dominates 70% of the choice?

We already have plenty of informational texts; there are called math books, science books, geography books, health books and history books. If anything, our children are desperate for the stories that communicate our history and culture, our faith and values as a society. Is it because these precious books are so rich in the ideals that made this nation great that the classics are being targeted for removal from the classroom?

It is incumbent upon our generation to pass our rich literary heritage to the next generation. Abandon the Common Core Standards. Utah can do far better.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Agency Based Education By Alicia Walters Former Utah Teacher

Education is a means to an end, not the end itself—at least that much is clear from reading John Amos Comenius (1600s) who believed that education best served the public when it was universally available and stressed vocational training, preparing students to work in the real world; in comparison to John Milton, who believed that education best served the public when it catered to the elite and stressed language arts and humanities, preparing students for leadership positions in government.  So what type of education best serves the public?  Simply put, critics of vocational education will say that it neglects the classics in literature, art and music, and critics of classical education will say that it is lacking in practicality.  The answer is neither because in both arguments, the end of education is not determined by an individual student but rather by some theoretical idea about education.  Education must be voluntary and so the problem lies in education that is driven by someone other than the individual being educated.  Whatever happened to the adage, the possibilities are endless?  In both theories, the student is viewed by his potential, which is defined as: latent qualities or abilities that may be developed and led to future success or usefulness.  There is possible danger in education where the end of it is determined not by the individual being educated but by a “panel” or group doing the educating because whatever the panel’s agenda, the student’s individuality is at risk.  Language is the primary tool we teachers use to convey useful knowledge to our students.  And so, if I were on a panel seeking a specific end, then I would want to eliminate use of words that would validate the existence of the individuality of the students.  Foremost, I would not talk to them about anything that had to do with their character.  Their past experiences, family, dreams and faith would not be relevant to our study because they do not determine the end, the panel does and the panel is not them.  I would seek to change my students’ language and the way they thought about their own character.  This is precisely why parents and some teachers view having a government imposed, national standard unfavorably.

Character is defined as “the mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual, or the distinctive nature of someone.”  If an individual student’s character is on the table, then the end of education cannot be easily predetermined and the panel is out of a job, unless their job description is rewritten to be a more supportive, rather than dictatorial role.  However, if students are only valued for their potential, or what some refer to as human capital, then the panel has a real opportunity for good or for evil.  The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction has stated, “The characteristics of students in each school community vary greatly across the state. ...To meet these [academic] goals, different strategies are needed that reflect student characteristics, experiences, and cultural differences” (  Savvy parents and teachers consider their students’ developing characters and not only their potential.  They vigilantly protect the formative years and avoid premature labeling of their children and students.  And, they realize that the public is not served best when the future generation is being educated by a distant panel but rather locally, foremost by their parents ideally and then by their teachers who are accountable to them.

By nature, effective teachers are supportive of their students’ developing characters because they understand that character has the most opportunity for growth during the formative years.  They do not blame their students but ultimately hold themselves accountable to their students and work tirelessly to provide enthusiasm, positive discipline and constructive feedback to their instruction.  Their teaching is adaptable to meet the individual needs of their students and because of that, effective teachers are learning continually and often exploring new possibilities of how to instruct their students better.  As a result, they are generally liked by their students who will say things like, “Her class is hard but it is one of my favorites.”  Effective teachers resent the panel for getting in their way because they already have plenty of work to do without it.  Ineffective teachers are often miserable at work and make other people miserable, including their students.  They do not care about their students’ developing characters because they do not consider teaching a responsibility—to their students or society in general, but rather a means to a paycheck.  They often blame their students and do not hold themselves accountable for lack of discipline.  Students can generally rehearse verbatim the thoughts and opinions of their ineffective teachers but cannot tell you hardly anything about their curriculum.  They rarely give useful feedback to students and parents are frustrated because of it.  Their teaching is not adaptable to meet the needs of their students but almost like a script they pull out of the “September” file year after year to read to bored students while they themselves are bored at work.  You can find them sitting at the back of the classroom with their feet up reading a newspaper while their students fill out a worksheet with eyes fixed on the clock.  After school, sightings of them are rare.  Ineffective teachers welcome any panel who will do their job for them, and investors with interests in human capital will jump at the chance to sit on those panels.

You would think that the best solution would be to hire effective teachers and fire ineffective ones, rather than try to assume a common, national standard.  As an example, I taught Junior English at Davis High School in Kaysville, Utah.  Students who attend this school are often parented by a father with a steady job and a mother who has the option of staying at home to raise the children.  At the time I taught there, 92% of the student body claimed membership in a church community.  The result is students are getting what they need at home to succeed in school including but not limited to: good nourishment, a comfortable place to sleep, the security a father can provide and the nurturing a mother can provide and vice versa, as well as association with friends who share their same values and beliefs.  As a result, Davis High School is naturally competitive in Academics, Football, Theater, Debate, Cheerleading, etc. It is a great place to work as a teacher and many of my colleagues there are effective mentors and teachers who play an active role in deciding, along with the administrators who is hired to teach at their school.  At the time however, looking at my fall schedule, it was apparent that the football team had practice early in the day and so my 1st and 2nd period classes were usually comprised of Theater and Debate students while the football players filled the desks in my 3rd and 4th period classes, after their practice.  You would expect a teacher in my situation to exercise her common sense and not teach classics like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn the same way to the Theater kids as I would to the football players, right?  I would hope so because it should go without saying that a Theater kid is going to react to The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn very differently than a football player after two hours of morning practice, generally speaking.  And they did react and learn very differently and that is not an observation that a distant panel would be able to make or assess.

By neglecting to eliminate ineffective teachers, you discourage effective teachers from making your school their professional home.  My first year teaching was not at Davis High School but 32 miles south at Hillcrest High School in Midvale, Utah.  I was the new teacher in an English department where I was one of the few not tenured and so I was assigned to be the Debate Coach, even though I had no debate experience.  This came as a surprise because when I interviewed for the job, “Debate Coach” was not in the job description but was added after I had accepted the English teaching position.  This was probably due to the fact that Debate requires many additional unpaid, after school hours and the tenured teachers cared less about who was qualified to coach debate and cared more about clocking out for the day.  If any one of them had taken an interest in the hiring of a new English teacher/Debate Coach, I probably would not have been hired because I had no experience with Debate.  The principal admitted this to me a month or so after I was hired.  This was not a result of a shortage of applicants qualified to coach Debate but a direct result of a shortage of interest on the part of the English Department in the hiring of a new teacher/coach.  I was also assigned to teach two 10th Grade English classes where only 1-2 students in these particular classes spoke English fluently and none as a first language.  The remaining 40 (approximately) students struggled to speak English.  Since I was not ESL endorsed and my class sizes exceeded the allotted number, I was told by the Department Chair not to mention anything about this to anyone outside the school.  Coaching Debate alone would have eaten all my time in preparation, then add those 10th Grade English classes, which were really ESL classes.  I had taken Spanish in college but was instructed to only speak to my students in English because I was not ESL endorsed.  I could have really used a mentor at the school to help me gain experience that first year but as a teacher there, I felt completely alone and unsupported.  The English Department at the time was comprised of mostly ineffective teachers. Routinely, I heard these teachers refer to their students as “little shits” and I felt insulted and ignored whenever I tried to propose ways to make improvements to our department, which is why I left my job at the school at the end of my first year.  These problems were not the result of a lack of resources as much as they were the result of a lack of effective teachers.  It matters less the amount of money a school has and matters much more the teachers a school has.

While employed at Davis High School, I also taught after school hours part-time at a third school, Solstice Residential Treatment Center. This private school understands the important distinction between students’ characters as it relates to their potential and the inefficacy of imposing a common, national standard on individual students.  From,

“Solstice specializes in the provision of gender-specific treatment for female adolescents who struggle with a variety of presenting problems such as: addiction and substance abuse, eating disorders, self harm, suicidal ideation, trauma, adoption and attachment issues, family conflict, etc.  We have developed a clinically intensive program based on the specific needs we know these young women have.”

Solstice RTC is located about five and a half miles from Davis High School in Layton, Utah.  The Wisconsin Department of Public Education is correct in their assessment that “characteristics in each school community vary across the state...” Being a good teacher in each of these schools required an enormous amount of adaptability and a keen interest in my students’ characters as it related to their potential. Educators do not have that same adaptability under a common, national standard, which inherently by simple geography cannot encompass the variability of students within a school community.  In other words, how would a national panel be able to write curriculum that would fit such varied needs of individual students within proximity as close as a 5 mile radius?  They would either have to design a curriculum that targets a specific potential set within groups of school communities while ignoring the needs of students within those same communities or they would have to create something that best serves only the lowest performing students, bringing everyone down to the least common denominator in order to level the playing field.  They can’t afford to look at students’ characters because then the end is predicated on the student rather than the panel and so they do everything they can to diminish the role of character in a students’ learning and focus instead on human capital.  Sadly, the result is less teaching of language arts and humanities and less students realizing their exceptional characters.  Add a panel of educators or policy makers with a hidden agenda that most likely will not have the students’ characters best interest in mind and that is tragic.

~Alicia Walters former Utah Teacher