DESE FOIAed Emails: Federally Funded Out-of-State NGOs Provided Assistance to Ensure the Continuation of Common Core State Standards
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A Look Back: May 2013
Do you remember the eight Common Core meetings The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education scheduled on May 2, 2013? DESE called for these meetings to be held as taxpayers were becoming increasingly aware of the CCSSI signed on to by the governor, State Board of Education and the Commissioner of Education with little public knowledge and discussion. Many taxpayers believed this sudden move for public discussion on the standards was to thwart pending legislation written to hold DESE accountable as to the cost and details of CCSSI:
SENATE COMMITTEE SUBSTITUTE
SENATE BILL NO. 210
To amend chapter 161, RSMo, by adding thereto one new
section relating to the common core state standards
initiative, with an emergency clause.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE STATE OF MISSOURI,
Section A. Chapter 161, RSMo, is amended by adding thereto
one new section, to be known as section 161.855, to read as
1. The department of elementary and secondary
education shall conduct at least one public hearing in each
congressional district in Missouri prior to the full
implementation of the common core state standards. The public
hearings shall provide an opportunity for members of the general
public to publicly testify regarding the common core state
standards. The commissioner of education and at least one member
of the state board of education shall attend each public hearing.
For each public hearing, the department shall provide at least
two weeks’ notice to school districts and parents of public
school students located within the congressional district in
which the hearing shall be held.
2. At least two weeks prior to the first of the public
hearings, the department of elementary and secondary education
shall perform and make publicly available a fiscal analysis of
the projected cost to the state and school districts of the
implementation of the common core state standards. The analysis
shall include the costs of material, equipment, technology, and
training, as well as any savings that may be realized. The
department shall provide the fiscal analysis to the president pro
tempore of the senate, the speaker of the house of
representatives, and to the joint committee on education. The
department shall publish the fiscal analysis on its internet
3. At least two weeks prior to the first of the public
hearings, the department of elementary and secondary education
shall prepare a report that identifies:
(1) Any data that shall be collected as a result of the
implementation of the common core state standards; and
(2) Any governmental entity, quasi-governmental entity, or
consortium that collects data or receives data as a result of the
implementation of the common core state standards.
4. The department of elementary and secondary education
shall submit the report required under subsection 3 of this
section to the president pro tempore of the senate, the speaker
of the house of representatives, and to the joint committee on
education. The department shall publish the report on its
internet website. The department shall notify parents of public
school students of the data collection procedures described in
subsection 3 of this section.
5. The department of elementary and secondary education
shall conduct all of the public hearings by December 31, 2013.
Section B. Because of the importance of providing information to
the public about the common core state standards,
section A of this act is deemed necessary for the immediate
preservation of the public health, welfare, peace and safety, and
is hereby declared to be an emergency act within the meaning of
the constitution, and section A of this act shall be in full
force and effect upon its passage and approval.
Some saw DESE’s attempt to be ‘transparent’ as a public relations effort by the agency to be perceived as willing to answer questions from increasingly concerned taxpayers about standards that were adopted before they were even written. This supposed willingness of the agency to answer questions did not occur in these meetings. It became obvious as the meetings progressed that DESE facilitators were there to present eight identical power points allegedly written by DESE. No answers were to be given to taxpayer questions and this was stated in the very beginning of the presentation. Groups were convened in seven of these meetings (the Lindbergh group refused to participate in the Delphi arrangement) to discuss CCSSI concerns and the DESE appointed group facilitator led the discussion. Questions asked at the end of the meeting were provided in written form to DESE and it was to provide answers on their website. Many of the answers on the website were not factually answered and taxpayers were still concerned at the lack of DESE’s accountability. The bill was not considered and once again, DESE did not enter into a true transparent conversation with taxpayers or legislators.
As Van Harvey, a parent and taxpayer at one of the meetings noted:
What’s interesting is that the replies and comments of the facilitators here, are nearly the same as those of DESE last Thursday. A couple sales techniques came to mind watching this, particularly where they are practiced most often and most poorly, at the car lot. The Tie-Down, where the salesmen offers you a couple ‘options’, either of which moves the sale forward if you answer them “Would you rather have that in blue or red?”. If you say either blue or red, or even “what about black?”, you’ve agreed (in the sales world) to purchase the car.
The other is ‘Assuming the sale’, where the buyer is recruited to help the sale “So with the options you requested, that’ll come to $500 per month, sign here please.”, and it requires the toughest technique of all in sales – the salesmen must shut-up and let the buyer sell them self.
When it works it’s extremely powerful because the ‘buyer’ is arguing with no one but them self: ‘Should I do this? I guess I should….”, but that is also it’s weakness, all it requires is for the person who is being manipulated to step outside the faux-rules laid out for them and ask other questions or simply say “No”.
And the other is the infamous ‘Sales manager says no’, where your buddy the salesmen says “I’d really like to get that option and that price for you, but I’m sorry, our sales manager says we can’t do that.” How often did they say “I’m sorry, I wish we could address your questions, but the process has already been set.” (MEW note: remember this sentence. It is what happened in the HB1490 work groups due to DESE’s involvement)
At the Lindbergh mtg, people either refused to be confined to the choices laid out for them, or they simply said no.
That’s all it takes.
Some comments from the statewide meetings:
Don’t know if you saw our FB post about the meeting in Marceline. What an outrage. We met in this very large room with only about 9 tables. We listened to the power point with all of the talking points. The first thing out of the facilitators mouth was the “Federal Government” has nothing to do with Common Core. Then HE INTRODUCED TWO REPS FROM THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT. I felt like screaming.
**************************Some of my favorite quotes of the night were:“The federal government played NO role in Common Core”.“No data collection is required with Common Core”.“A state can change the standards at any time. It is the state’s choice on HOW to use the standards.”“The standards are owned by the state, therefore can be changed by the state.”“Standards do not tell teachers HOW to teach.”“The Missouri Constitution and state law direct DESE to set high academic standards.”
With strong support in both the House and Senate, the Missouri legislature passed HB1490 whose main purpose is to define a system wherein state education experts will evaluate and recommend state K-12 education standards.
“We would have liked the language to be a lot stronger in terms of rejecting the Common Core State Standards. We will have to rely on the professional integrity of those selected to be on the various work groups to really focus on what is best for our students and teachers and not be swayed by outside political or financial interests,” said Anne Gassel a co-founder of MCACC. The coalition is a grassroots group made up of mothers and fathers, grandparents, teachers and school board members who are working together to restore local control of education.
Governor Nixon signed the bill into law on July 14, 2014. The intent of HB1490 was to have an open and transparent process in which legislative Missouri appointees were to develop MISSOURI standards, not warmed over Common Core State Standards with a few revisions. The final bill was not a perfect bill but it was a start for taxpayers to have a seat at the table in the public education they are obligated to pay for and have had little to no voice in educational policy direction/development.
Based on DESE’s history with the Delphi approach to meeting with the public, many taxpayers were suspicious if anything other than warmed over CCSS would be produced in the work groups. Other states had attempted to create their own standards via various work groups and committees, and the results were less than satisfactory. Parents from Indiana and Oklahoma reported that the process seemed to be set in favor of retaining the standards, regardless of the passage of laws which called for state created standards, rather than NGO created standards.
We are in receipt of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) emails between DESE and ELA 6-12 work group members, legislators, and NGOs from May 2014 through June 2015. These emails show contact with out of state federally funded agencies from DESE for guidance on how to control the work group process. DESE had no authority in HB1490 to inquire for assistance from these out of state NGOs. These emails illustrate DESE was attempting to control the process of a bill that was to be developed on the state level.
While there was some hope from the taxpayers that the work groups could create their own standards via the process called for in HB1490, DESE had paid facilitators and note takers ready for the first meetings, even as this was not called for in the bill and funding was not available. Eight facilitators were to present DESE created identical power points to the work groups. These presentations would be similar to those presented at the May 2, 2013 meetings: the same message was delivered by DESE to all groups for DESE’s desired outcome. As the September 23, 2014 Peter Kinder letter in the above graphic stated, the power was to shift to the work groups to write the standards. Plans to have facilitators at the first four meetings had been contractually arranged by DESE and the agency had assumed it would direct these meetings through the facilitators.
The ELA 6-12 work group became divided as one member unappointed by the Speaker of the House refused to leave and some members believed he should acknowledge the speaker’s authority and vacate his position. Some members believed their opinion and research was not welcomed and considered in the standard writing process and was the intent of the bill was not being followed. Nationally recognized speaker Sandra Stotsky was only allowed three minutes to speak, even as the law was called for expert research to be considered for the writing of the standards. This point is ironic as DESE secretly obtained advice and financial assistance from out of state agencies without the knowledge of the entire ELA 6-12 work group. The minority group which split away believed that by deliberating and signing onto a report with a member who was not credentialed to serve and who hid his true intent of following the law would lend credibility to this flawed process. Some members thought this process was possibly being directed by DESE due to some comments by the educational agency appointees. There was little they could do to ensure Missouri standards would be written as according to HB1490, and it seemed as if Missouri would follow the disastrous ‘rewrites’ of other states who tried to reclaim their state’s obligation to direct/develop their own standards.
We will be detailing in the next few days the details of these emails:
- DESE’s immediate emails (when HB1490 was passed) to federally funded agencies whose existence is to ensure the implementation of ‘college and career ready standards’ (CCSS), asking for funding and advice on how to structure the work group narrative;
- Speaker of the House appointee Nick Kremer (who was unappointed but refused to leave) detailing his true reason for serving on the work group, which was to ensure the continuation of CCSS, ignoring the intent of the law;
- DESE’s involvement in trying to portray parents as a stumbling block for transparent discussion, while at the same time, meeting separately and quietly with ‘friendly’ members for work group updates;
- DESE’s plans to direct the outcome of the work groups and circumvent the law;
- The use of funding from federally funded groups outside Missouri by DESE to further this outcome
For activists in other states who have experienced the frustration of standards ‘rewrites’ instead of being able to craft your own standards, these Missouri emails may very well explain what went on in your state behind the scenes. There are federally funded regional agencies designed to ensure the CCSS are implemented in the states, regardless of state legislation, and DESE contacted these agencies immediately for strategy and financial assistance to implement the desired outcome of the continuation of the common core standards. As Anne had written earlier about the signing of HB1490:
We will have to rely on the professional integrity of those selected to be on the various work groups to really focus on what is best for our students and teachers and not be swayed by outside political or financial interests.
You will see via these emails that the ELA 6-12 work group never had a chance to not be swayed by outside political or financial interests. These outside interests are funded by the Federal Government. State legislation is being ignored by DESE and actively circumvented by DESE bureaucrats and federally funded agencies formed to promote Federal education mandates. Many of these agencies were created to assist SEAs for NCLB implementation and they are now assisting the implementation of CCSSI. The USDOEd cannot directly perform these duties so it creates agencies to be its proxy to the state educational agencies. The state agency (DESE) then looks to these federally funded agencies for direction on how to retain CCSS as that is the desired outcome of the USDOEd. While DESE is referred to as a ‘state educational agency’, it has morphed into an agent of the Federal Government and its programs.
From Van Harvey’s post on the Delphi meeting in May 2013:
Towards the end of the Q&A that we finally forced upon them, I asked her, truly puzzled,
‘Why are you surprised by the reaction of the people here?’
and she was speechless. When I followed up afterwards, she so much as said that she really expected our common decency to yield to their completely disrespectful presentation. Surprise. Another DESE representative, Doug, I think his name was, said that he couldn’t understand why anyone was the least upset, after all, he said,
“This is the first time, the very first time I can remember, where everyone agrees upon a plan. Our big corporations agree, our governors agree and the leaders of our educational system all agree, these standards are the best for all concerned – I can’t understand why you don’t welcome them.”
You will see via these emails that the Delphi process in May 2013 was the same process envisioned and attempted in the HB1490 work group meetings: the outcome was predetermined, regardless of the law, and that the mandates via the Federally funded government surrogates are to be implemented.
Part II will introduce the out of state federally funded agencies, involved at DESE’s request, which had input into the Missouri ELA 6-12 work group process.
(Lt Governor Peter Kinder’s letter used in the graphic may be found here).