Chairman Peter Herschend & The State Board of Education of Missouri: Follow All Laws or Just Some?
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Above is a tweet from a STL Post Dispatch reporter attending the State Board hearing on HB1490 workgroup progress this past Monday. We will be writing more in the coming days about this meeting as there are a number of rich quotes from Board members and the public testifying about the workgroups, Common Core, and the intent of the law.
But regarding the above tweet, we’d like to address Mr. Herschend’s comment. This was made near the end of the meeting and to those knowledgeable about the creation, adoption and implementation of the Common Core State Standards Initiative, it was an incredulous statement by an appointed State Board official. It sounds quite reasonable on its face. It sounds as if Mr. Herschend, as a appointed bureaucrat, wishes to follow the law. This statement is a great example of a close reading:
Mr. Herschend reminds common core critics that Board did not make the law, they have to follow the law. That’s quite profound but there’s more to this close reading. Let’s look at the distant learning and about the circumvention of the law that the State Board conveniently ignored in its adoption of Common Core State Standards Initiative. From Missouri Coalition Against Common Core:
How did this occur without any report to the legislature when it was the law to do so in 2009? Below illustrates how the representative process was circumvented to hasten CCSS adoption and implementation. Here is the original statutory language, not changed from 1998 until HB1490 in 2014:
160.526. 1. In establishing the academic standards authorized by subsection 1 of section 160.514 and the statewide assessment system authorized by subsection 1 of section 160.518, the state board of education shall consider the work that has been done by other states, recognized regional and national experts, professional education discipline-based associations and other professional education associations. Further, in establishing the academic standards and statewide assessment system, the state board of education shall adopt the work that has been done by consortia of other states and, subject to appropriations, may contract with such consortia to implement the provisions of sections 160.514 and 160.518.
2. The state board of education shall, by contract enlist the assistance of such national experts, as approved by the commission established pursuant to section 160.510, to receive reports, advice and counsel on a regular basis pertaining to the validity and reliability of the statewide assessment system. The reports from such experts shall be received by the commission, which shall make a final determination concerning the reliability and validity of the statewide assessment system. Within six months prior to implementation of the statewide assessment system, the commissioner of education shall inform the president pro tempore of the senate and the speaker of the house about the procedures to implement the assessment system, including a report related to the reliability and validity of the assessment instruments, and the general assembly may, within the next sixty legislative days, veto such implementation by concurrent resolution adopted by majority vote of both the senate and the house of representatives.
3. The commissioner of education shall establish a procedure for the state board of education to regularly receive advice and counsel from professional educators at all levels in the state, district boards of education, parents, representatives from business and industry, and labor and community leaders pertaining to the implementation of sections 160.514 and 160.518. The procedure shall include, at a minimum, the appointment of ad hoc committees and shall be in addition to the advice and counsel obtained from the commission pursuant to section 160.510.
This is linked from http://www.moga.mo.gov/mostatutes/stathtml/16000005261.html.
If Peter Herschend is dedicated to follow the law, then why did the State Board of Education approve the MOU for CCSS adoption? Was the law in 2009 a law that he conveniently wanted to ignore? When did he become a follower of the law? Or is this just a comment in passing, a close reading phrase about HB1490?
He commented during the hearing that only the workgroup reports would be considered as valid when the State Board received information about new standards. This was after the HB1490 ELA 6-12 spokesperson gave her report and indicated that five members split away from the main group. This splinter group broke away because of the ‘mob rule’ mentality of the majority of the group and its disinterest to seriously examine other state standards for review. The alternate group is wrote a minority report and planned to submit it to the State Board. By expressing that the Board will only read reports by the workgroup and not the breakaway group, Mr. Herschend again is not following the current law in section 1. The ELA 6-12 group voted not to allow outside opinions in its deliberations on Missouri state standards which is in direct opposition to the current statute. Here is a report from one of the minority group members and why the split was necessary:
My name is Jill Noble and I am here to address you today on behalf of the appointed members of the 6-12 English Language Arts workgroup. I was appointed to this work group by Lt. Governor Kinder.
We are very grateful for the privilege to serve the State of Missouri as volunteers for this great work of writing excellent standards for our children and schools. We take our work seriously, knowing the impact it will have for many years.
We began our work with the hope and expectation that the work group would be upholding the intention of HB1490—the very law that called for the creation of these said groups.
With that, I would like to make this Board aware of some obstacles that we have encountered in our work group.
The process that was established for these work groups was to include collaboration and collegiality among the members as we researched sources, inquired of leading national experts, and wrote standards. Much to our surprise, we learned that some of us were being left out of the process!
“How?” you may ask.
We learned through a FOIA request that over 6,000 emails had been exchanged between the Dept. of Elementary and Secondary Education, facilitators, work group members, other professional organizations and the governor’s office pertaining specifically to the work of our group. Yet, five of the group members were not privy to these emails. When we asked DESE for these emails, by way of a Freedom of Information request, we were told that it would cost us over $5,000 dollars to retrieve them.
We learned that one of our members was officially removed from the group by the Speaker of the House. This member refused to leave, persisting in attending the scheduled meetings and offering input.
We learned that the new Speaker of the House had appointed a replacement for the member who had been previously removed. This new member was rejected by members of our group, she was not allowed to speak, she was not allowed to vote and when she provided copies of her letter of appointment to the group, she was told that only a Missouri court could make this decision! Furthermore, the group members stated that they flatly refused to recognize the Speaker’s authority.
During the business of writing standards, it became very apparent that our group was heavily stacked with pro-common core advocates. This bias continued to diminish the quality of work product, as those of us who were there to uphold HB1490 were not agreeable with the pro-common core members in simply re-branding the standards.
It was not an easy decision but when the majority of our group decided not to follow the spirit and intent of 1490, when they decided not to honor the Speaker’s authority in making a new appointment, and when we learned that communication had been taking place between entities of the group, yet five of us were not included, we were left with no choice but to separate ourselves and write a minority report, to present to this Board. In response to our decision, one of the majority members made the comment that “democratic rule is not mob rule”.
In fact, one of our founding fathers, principal author of the Declaration of Independence and third president of the United States spoke to the contrary: “Democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where 51% of the people may take away the rights of the other 49%.”
In this process, we five have felt the heavy responsibility to the parents of the State of Missouri. We believe that the majority of these parents oppose Common Core and its initiative. To that end, we have continued our work.
We believe that all are accountable to the people and to follow the law– work group members as well as State Board of Education Members.
With that, I submit our minority report.
These are the people that The State Board don’t want to hear from, even as these appointed workgroup members are the ones who are following the law. Mr. Herschend has informed them that he doesn’t care and won’t consider what they submitted. Here is what the Board won’t consider as of April 2015:
6-12 ELA Minority Work Group Public Hearing Report
Statement of WG Objective: To develop Missouri ELA standards for grades 6-12.
Description of WG Organization:
- 5 Minority Members
Progress report describing consensus of the WG regarding what has been accomplished and the remaining issues to be addressed.
- Determined the five major strands to be used as a framework.
- Began the process of reviewing and comparing the current Missouri Learning Standards to the 2013 English Language Arts curriculum Framework developed by Dr. Sandra Stotsky as well as the Massachusetts 2001 ELA standards.
- Introduced ourselves to the K-5 ELA workgroup and asked for future opportunities to collaborate and share documents and drafts to ensure vertical alignment upon completion.
- Reviewed the K-5 draft documents in Speaking and Listening, Writing, and Language.
Description of Remaining Steps to Completion
Develop the vertical progression of standards for Reading- Literary and Informational Texts, as well as complete the other four strands.
Collaborate with K-5 ELA work group to ensure vertical alignment
Seek feedback from state and national education experts as well as parents and teachers currently teaching in Missouri public schools.
Continue to consult current educational best practices and research.
Identification of obstacles to overcome or tools/information required to assure success:
Be allowed to collaborate with the K-5 ELA workgroup in order to share documents and research as well as ensure vertical alignment of the final product.
Any other issues important to the particular WG:
As we work to develop these new standards, we are adhering to the following:
Missouri Department of Higher Education Curriculum Alignment Initiative
Career Ready Practices
Missouri Show-Me Content Standards for ELA
National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE)
We are also consulting the following standards: current Missouri Learning Standards , Massachusetts 2001, Sandra Stotsky 2013
As I responded to Alex Stuckey:
There seems to be little interest on distant learning and following the statutes in 2009 by the State Board of Education and Peter Herschend. Welcome to the CCSSI version of following the law and the subsequent MSM reporting (or not) on the creation, adoption and implementation of an initiative that did not follow the law. But when bureaucrats are desirous of a particular outcome (that of a centralized national educational system which one State Board member wants…we’ll have more on Mr. Mike Jones in a subsequent post), you follow (or don’t) whatever law you choose. After all, these are appointed positions and these members face no public accountability.