MO State Board Response to 6,500 FOIAed Emails Detailing DESE Involvement in CCSS ELA6-12 Work Group: *Nothing Here, Move Along*
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The third public hearing on recommendations from academic standards work groups formed under HB 1490 took place Monday afternoon in Jefferson City. This was required via HB1490 and began with work group reports followed by public comments. DESE’s website indicates that public comment on the proposed standards will be available via email beginning in November:
“High academic standards are critical for the success of Missouri’s children,” said Missouri Commissioner of Education Margie Vandeven. “We encourage everyone to read the proposed standards created by parents and educators and provide feedback.”
The work groups made their final recommendations available to the State Board on Oct. 1, as required by law. The General Assembly’s Joint Committee on Education and academic researchers will have the opportunity to see and comment on the standards.
A public comment period on the proposed standards will be available via the Department website from Nov. 2 – Dec. 2. The review process is expected to take several months to ensure the standards continue Missouri’s tradition of setting high expectations for students.
While we are waiting for DESE to publish the reports for your review/comment, we will be updating this site periodically with testimony we have available and citizen taped videos from the meeting (video paid for by citizens as no audio/video is provided by DESE for these meetings). Van Harvey supplies his testimony in Missouri HB 1490 Work Group wrap-up. The opening graphic indicates that his work group worked well together and he believes the participants tried their best to write standards as directed by HB1490.
Van’s experience was not shared by several citizens who addressed the standards writing process in ELA6-12. I spoke to the Board and supplied evidence of DESE controlling the process even before the work groups were constituted. My statement is here:
What authority was given to DESE in HB1490? Agency involvement is not mentioned in the bill, rather, the State Board is tasked with certain responsibilities. DESE was defined as the administrative arm of The State Board of Education by State Board President Charlie Shields in the September 2015 State Board meeting. This implies DESE is carrying out the directives of The State Board.
Based on the description/understanding of the relationship between Missouri SBOE and DESE, these are questions arising from the 6,500 emails FOIAed from DESE regarding ELA6-12 work groups between work group members, DESE employees, facilitators, webcam operators, NGOs:
- Did the State Board direct and/or was it aware of DESE contact to out-of-state federally funded agencies for financial/strategic assistance to thwart the HB1490 process so that Common Core standards would be retained?
- Did DESE employees plan strategy with certain work group members via ‘regroup meetings’ to retain the standards with SBOE knowledge/directives?
- Did DESE employee Sarah Potter contact the news media to create dissension in the group that was ultimately blamed on disaffected parents with SBOE knowledge/directive?
- Does the State Board of Education believe this out-of state involvement is appropriate in writing ‘state-led’ standards writing and development?
- Did the SBOE have knowledge of these facts as discovered in the emails and the SBOE direct DESE as its administrative arm to undertake these actions? ~~DESE provided PowerPoint presentations to each facilitator and instruction from consultative organizations on how to control the process. These contracts stated DESE would pay $500 per work group meeting day, plus reasonable and necessary travel expenses per DESE policy not to exceed $4,500. Eight facilitators were to be provided for six dates: September 22, 23 and October 2, 3, 20 and 21, 2014. These dates were set by DESE even before the work groups had their first meeting and participants could decide what dates were most beneficial for their particular workgroup. The cost for these facilitators and DESE note takers and video personnel was estimated at $90-100K and was not provided for in the legislation, hence DESE’s solicitation for funding from groups outside of Missouri.
Was the SBOE aware of the actions by DESE to control the process? Melia Franklin, DESE employee, sent an email in August 2014 to those friendly to retaining the standards. The ‘smart and savvy ELA people’ she refers to have been shown in FOIAed emails as wanting to retain the standards and one of the recipients of Franklin’s email is a CCSSO trainer. This email excerpt is from a minority group ELA6-12 group member to the entire ELA6-12 group after the discovery of the 6,500 emails:
From the time HB1490 was signed (and even before), DESE took the stance that the bill puts us in the position of smoothing out all of the logistics to make these meetings work. Are there any directives from the State Board detailing the involvement of DESE? There is nothing giving DESE the authority for this statement in HB1490. The responsibility for such planning should have emanated from the SBOE. I see nothing listed in any agenda item or minutes on the SBOE site. Perhaps those duties were delineated in closed session by the SBOE to DESE. SBOE President Charlie Shields apparently finds nothing amiss in DESE’s actions as noted in this article, Common Core opponents say DESE rigged education standard review. I wonder if Mr. Shields and I attended the same meeting and heard the same testimony provided as to DESE’s intense involvement in the ELA6-12 work group process:
State Board of Education President Charlie Shields said DESE saw its role as providing whatever aid the work groups felt they needed. That aid was withdrawn when some work group members protested. He said DESE did not violate the provisions of HB 1490.
“Clearly, they (the work groups) felt they were meeting the requirements of the legislation, and they were not impeded by anything the department or any other outside groups did,” he said.
If Charlie Shields and the SBOE were not aware of these emails and the control of the process in ELA6-12, Shields’ recent comment gives approval of DESE’s tactics. Mr. Shields heard one ELA6-12 work group member’s testimony contrary to his statement:
Clearly, they (the work groups) felt they were meeting the requirements of the legislation, and they were not impeded by anything the department or any other outside groups did.
He was given a copy of the Minority Report by a minority group member at the public comment session and each SBOE member previously received a copy of The Minority Report by US Mail explaining that group’s dissatisfaction and belief that this work group in fact did not meet the requirements of the legislation and that they were indeed impeded by DESE and out of state NGOs.
If certain work group members were trained by DESE representatives or NGOs to retain common core standards and control the process, then of course fair hearings were impeded by the department. The outcome was predetermined and Mr. Shields’ denial of the facts and apparent dismissal of The Minority Report and citizen testimony is troubling. The SBOE was given the authority in HB1490 to implement the organization of the work groups. It needs to answer these questions on how DESE influenced work group process and be held accountable for the actions of its administrative arm.
If the State Board’s answer to DESE’s involvement is: ‘no problem here, move along’, then the Legislature should investigate the State Board’s actions or lack therof. The legislature must hold the SBOE and DESE accountable to documented facts of attempting to control ELA6-12 outcomes.