Residents meet with district, education officials over Common Core, SAGE testing

Nihla Judd reads to Superintendent Larry Bergeson from the Constitution. Q-and-A meeting on Common Core in the Washington County School District. St. George, Utah, June 26, 2014 | Photo by T.S Romney, St. George News

ST. GEORGE – The Washington County School District Superintendent Larry Bergeson held a question-and-answer meeting Thursday for parents concerned with the state’s implementation of the Common Core initiative. Members of the school board, teachers, as well as state representatives were also on hand fielding questions from a crowded room.

Superintendent Larry Bergeson fielded questions on Common Core in the Washington County School District. St. George, Utah,  June 26, 2014 | Photo by T.S Romney, St. George News
Superintendent Larry Bergeson fielded questions on Common Core in the Washington County School District. St. George, Utah, June 26, 2014 | Photo by T.S Romney, St. George News

“Let me make something clear,” Bergeson said as he began the meeting “we may not give you the answers you want to hear. We simply don’t have control over everything. We are holding this meeting because we want to answer questions, we are not hiding things. We are trying to do the best job we can.”

Nihla Judd of St George was the first to address the superintendent. She related how her first-grade grandchild brought home a book entitled “Clothes.”  The book referred to the first people as being ape-like creatures who were covered in hair and didn’t wear much clothes, she said.

“Why do we have this social agenda going on in school,” Judd said, “when we want our children to learn facts and figures?”

On one occasion, Judd’s grandson’s mother asked him to clean out a water dish, she said. He went to use a sponge and when his mother said: “Don’t use that use a paper towel,” the boy replied that a tree gave of its life for a paper towel, that he would not throw boxes away, and became upset because in school he was taught he had to recycle.

“Common Core is unconstitutional and has not been through legislation or parent review,” Nihla Judd said. “When are we going to draw a line in the sand and say ‘no more’? We need to be Davids and stand up to Goliath and tell the federal government that we are not going to adopt a program that is harmful to our children.”

Bergeson said one thing that the district does have control over is curriculum. As to the items being brought home, he said he would look into that and see what exactly is happening and take appropriate action.

Nihla Judd speaks about her concerns on Common Core in the Washington County School District. St. George, Utah,  June 26, 2014 | Photo by T.S Romney, St. George News
Nihla Judd speaks about her concerns on Common Core in the Washington County School District. St. George, Utah, June 26, 2014 | Photo by T.S Romney, St. George News

Several other parents including Nihla Judd went on to question the SAGE test, which is a test Utah Board of Education designed to assess if students are meeting the cord standards.

I am very very concerned as to why it is so secretive,” Nihla Judd said. “We cant see it, we don’t know the results. We don’t know what the questions are. Students have told me that they are asking questions that are of no business to the school’s district – like: how does your mom feel? what is your dad like? How many guns do you own?”

Bergeson said: “I can’t verify those specific questions. In the past, you wouldn’t have been able to look at the tests either because it compromises the validity of those tests.”

If we don’t get to see the test, Nihla Judd said, how do we know where a child needs help?

Diana Suddreth, STEM Coordinator for the Utah Office of Education, was present to address the SAGE test. She said:

The Sage test is simply the newest end-of-year test. It would have happened with or without Common Core. It’s part of our accountability system. The state of Utah decided we wanted a Utah test. We contracted with the American Institute of Research – it is true AIR does have contracts that are of a behavioral nature, but the testing creation is a completely different division so there is no crossover there. The test were developed by Utah teachers. Those Utah teachers are going through the tests now that it has been administrated they are going threw the data and looking at the responses and seeing if they are assessing the standards.

Concerned citizens attend a Q-and-A meeting on Common Core in the Washington County School District. St. George, Utah,  June 26, 2014 | Photo by T.S Romney, St. George NewsWashington County School District. June 26, 2014 | Photo by T.S Romney
Concerned citizens attend a Q-and-A meeting on Common Core in the Washington County School District. St. George, Utah, June 26, 2014 | Photo by T.S Romney, St. George NewsWashington County School District. June 26, 2014 | Photo by T.S Romney

“How do you know the people who work for that company didn’t throw any behavioral questions in?” one parent said.

“I know them,” Suddreth said. “I admit I don’t have the resumé of every person.”

Bergeson jumped in and said that he felt one of the main underlying issues is trust. Trust of the government and process in the creation of the Common Core initiative.

“I read that the school district receives 9 percent of its funding from the federal government,” St. George resident Joseph Judd said. “Why are we selling ourselves out to this Common Core for 9 percent?”

Bergeson said in response that he was not sure the exact amount of funding received but knew it was a low amount. However, for each student the budget allows for only about $6,000, as opposed to Wyoming which gets $16,000. So 9 percent, when you are receiving such a low amount, adds up, he said.

“I attended a run-down Dixie High School, now we have a brand new building. Hurricane has a brand new high school,” Joseph Judd said. “I would rather have my kids attend a run-down school than take 9 percent from the federal government.”

Lori Woodard of St George was concerned because when she opted her daughter out of the SAGE test, she, along with a few other students and parents who also opted out, were brought into the principal’s office and pressured into taking the test.

Superintendent Larry Bergeson fielded questions on Common Core in the Washington County School District. St. George, Utah,  June 26, 2014 | Photo by T.S Romney, St. George News
Superintendent Larry Bergeson fielded questions on Common Core in the Washington County School District. St. George, Utah, June 26, 2014 | Photo by T.S Romney, St. George News

“We don’t agree with that,” Bergeson said. “After we learned that was going on we spoke to our principals and addressed that situation. Many principals were afraid if so many students opted out of the test, their schools would be listed as failing. No principals want that.”

Parents also were upset about their kids coming home with homework that already gave them the answer, and they were supposed to find out how another came up with the answer; or, that their kids were being taught to solve simple math problems using a more complex method. Woodard said:

Its telling them how to do the problem solving. Not teaching them to think about it and come up with your own solution. My child came home with a math problem of 22 + 16. What he was supposed to do is break the 22 down into 10s because it’s easier to deal with 10s. So now he has 10, 10, and 2. He now has to do the same to the 16. So now he has 10 and 6. So he adds the three 10s to make 30 and the 6 and 2 to make 8. Why can’t they simply do it the way we learned it back in the day. How do we expect these kids on the job if they need to add numbers quickly to do it with these methods?

“We disagree,” Bergeson said. “When we look at Common Core, we see it builds in problem solving, it’s building in application. We are doing more of that now than we ever did. I think at this point we understand what the concerns are and where we need to look into.”

The meeting then ended at about two hours duration.

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Posted in Education, Government, Life, Politics

10 Comments

  • M. Collins June 27, 2014 at 1:01 pm

    Common Core is all about the financial gain for the testing process providers.

  • t-RAV Fan June 27, 2014 at 1:17 pm

    Thanks to Supt. Bergeson for being willing to meet and address concerns. I all reality, I believe that if you asked a teacher today how their classroom has changed since the adoption of Common Core you would find that very little classroom practice has changed. Teachers still strive to provide a quality program for their students. They still do all they can to make a difference for their students.

    Common Core has become such a political issue rather than an education issue. Who become the pawns? Our children. It is too bad that we allow that to happen!

  • Bender June 27, 2014 at 3:21 pm

    Superintendent Bergeson deserves hazard pay compensation for putting up with these dolts. It’s mind numbing to read, let alone listen, to their nonsensical objections to Common Core.

  • Lina June 27, 2014 at 4:57 pm

    Too bad that you have people at these meetings that are wasting the boards time, instead of asking questions that are actually pertinent so that we can figure out what the actual problems are. The focus should be on our children getting the best possible education available, but instead their brining up barcodes and strobe lights…. REALLY!!!! I personally am not sure about the common core but after reading the comments from the public It’s pretty clear that the board seems to have much more concern for our kids than the people that show up!!!!

  • Will June 27, 2014 at 5:35 pm

    My Son, who would have entered his senior year in August, just dropped out of school in Arkansas, took the GED and passed with honors. He will attend College in Nevada, beginning in August. The reason he gave me, for leaving high school was “because the school adopted the common core, its BS, and it will be a waste of my time to spend my senior year learning things that either not relevant to the real world, or amount to nothing more than social programming”. Yes, I am very proud of my Son and I know he will be productive and an asset to any community he settles in.

    • Bender June 28, 2014 at 9:08 am

      I’m sure your son will turn out fine but I don’t agree he made an informed decision based on fact. 90% of common core oppents have almost no knowledge of what common Core really is. Just like their opposition to the affordable care act ,the entirety of the thought process is:
      .
      “That socialist Muslim Kenyan that snuck into the White House thunk this up so I’m agin it”

    • Mike June 28, 2014 at 12:25 pm

      What kid doesn’t think the curriculum of his senior year is NOT a waste of his time?

  • Jennette June 28, 2014 at 8:04 am

    I too support the teachers in their efforts to love & educate our children. Unfortunately because of what is required through common core, more & more freedom is being taken away from teachers to be able to teach from their heart. They are expected to teach just by the book so the kids can do test after test after test.
    For those of you who do not support the idea of a Q & A with the School Board Members, need to do your homework before putting down “dolts” that have done hours & hours of research about the origins of common core & it’s purposes. The parents that have had concerns have actually communicated with their children & are very much involved with their children’s education instead of hoping that the schools & teachers will take over the education of our children so that parents can spend their time with “mind numbing” activities that take them away from actually feeling responsible for the education (or lack thereof) of our children. Start by doing your research of the Utah constitution & what parents involvement should be pertaining to our children’s education before writing any more ignorant comments that are a waste of time to read.

    • Bender June 30, 2014 at 10:26 pm

      “hours of research about the origins of common core ”
      .
      In my experience the research done by the anti common core folk consists of listening to Glenn beck, reading fringe blogs and watching fox tv. You and your loopy friends are entitled to your bizarre views Jeanette. I’ll keep heaping ridicule where it’s due.

  • Shay June 29, 2014 at 8:39 am

    I’m pretty sure I felt some of my brain cells die while reading this. Some of these people wasted so much of the time by complaining about their children being taught to recycle. Really? That’s a problem? You really don’t want your child to know how to take care of the planet and nature? That’s pathetic! The fact that you aren’t teaching your child to recycle is impressive.

    On the subject of the sage test, I really don’t see the problem. End of year testing has been around for YEARS-I took it every year I was in school-and no one ever got to see those tests. I don’t even remember getting my scores. I just remember being told if I passed or not. The only scores anyone ever really knew was the scores of those who got perfect scores. The SAGE test doesn’t sound like anything different.

    I’ll admit that there are a lot of problems with our education system, but I think the people they quoted in this article asked a lot of the wrong questions and took issue with a lot of the wrong things. EX: 9% of funding from the government. In one way, the person was right, kind of. We shouldn’t be getting 9%; we should be getting more. But with that said, maybe the state and county should stop wasting our money on stupid things (EX: silly court cases, unnecessary road work, etc) and start putting more of it towards the future.

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