Angie Hanlin needs to get her name on some distribution lists. There are a few important memos she seems not to have gotten.

Ms. Hanlin was quoted in a Standard Democrat article this week supporting the Common Core Standards.  I believe she truly enjoys the work she is doing to implement Common Core and she is no doubt seeing some results, but her message in the article is often at odds with those of CCSSI, NGA and CCSSO. Some of her statements are contrary to what other experts have said about Missouri standards.

Hanlin claims that the challenge of Common Core stems from the implementation.

How you implement the standards is by changing your instructional practices…If you keep teaching how you’re teaching and just change what you’re teaching, it won’t work. It’s how you teach that you have to change.

Missing Memo:  When describing Common Core be sure to stress that they are just standards. They don’t tell you how to teach. Teachers and districts have complete autonomy to choose the curriculum.

If the greatest problem with common core is the implementation process, then correct implementation, according to her, means changing how you teach, which means common core, if done right, does in fact tell you how to teach.

Common Core is the first set of standards where every grade builds upon the previous grade. We’ve never done that before, Hanlin said.

Missing Memo: The DESE crosswalks of the common core standards and the existing Missouri Grade Level Expectations. These documents show a tremendous amount of overlap between the two.

We have had standards that build upon each other for years.  Hanlin’s statement is false.

Our students in Southeast Missouri can have the education students are getting in Boston, Mass. We’ve never been in that category, and we are now.

Missing Memo: Margaret Spellings visited MO in 2008 during her tenure as US Secretary of Education. In a meeting with DESE and the SBE, after mentioning that Massachusetts’ standards usually gets the limelight,  said “It’s a little known fact is that Missouri’s standards are right up there and really really strong.”

M SpellingsSee the full video here

Not only were our standards high before Common Core, but this statement contradicts her prior statements that the need was not for better/different standards but for changing the WAY teachers teach. The only way for Missouri to get the same education, and mind you this is just exposure to the same education, as MA would be for Missouri to adopt the exact curriculum used by MA, and to teach it with absolute fidelity. Is she advocating for a national curriculum?

Missing Memo: Don’t tell anyone of our plans for a national curriculum. says this is a Myth: These standards amount to a national curriculum for our schools. Fact: The Common Core is not a curriculum. It is a clear set of shared goals and expectations for what knowledge and skills will help our students succeed. Local teachers, principals, superintendents, and others will decide how the standards are to be met.

There are many advocating for a national curriculum, starting with Bill Gates.

Then there’s the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium which is working towards its own national model curriculum (see slide 19) Hanlin is treading awfully close to letting the cat out of the bag.

She is only focused on the wonderful results she has seen in her five years of teaching the core (more on that timeline in another post). For example she sites this year’s kindergarten.

This year’s seven kindergarten rooms are also mastering 3-D geometric shapes and the number of vertices and edges,

Missing Memo:  Don’t tell anyone but, Finland, who everyone loves to point to as beating the pants off America on international tests (TIMMS PISA), doesn’t even allow children into school until age 7.

Teaching 5 year olds tricks like being able to identify a vertex has not been proven to make them more successful in college. Hanlin uses the word “mastery” with wanton abandon to make it appear that they are producing seven classes of child geniuses.

The crux of Hanlin’s argument for the standards seems based on changing how our teachers teach. As someone who does professional development for McGraw Hill, this statement is self serving. General surgeons want to operate on most health problems, financial advisers think their line of products make for the best investments, and  someone who retrains teachers is going to think that teacher training is the solution to bad education. I am in agreement that we have some poorly trained teachers, but the change to address this problem should occur when we are teaching the teachers in the first place, not once they are employed and at the expense of their employer, the district. If we wish to approach the same education as MA, then we must deploy  the same changes MA made to their entire education system, including their colleges of education. Those were key to the MA turn around.

Here’s one last memo Hanlin didn’t get. It’s a letter to President Peter Herschend of the MO State Board of Education from Dalton Wright of the Coordinating Board of Higher Education pleading with the state board to get DESE to move off the dime on changes to our education preparatory program.

We want to express our growing concern about the inability of our two administrative departments to achieve substantive progress on major issues regarding the substance and timeline for implementation of new standards for educator preparation. The level of frustration by the experts engaged in discussions about these issues has reached a critical point.

If standards aren’t the problem and teacher training is, then Missouri is wasting millions of dollars and thousands of hours (according to DESE and MASA) correcting the wrong thing with common core. We are doomed to mediocre results even though we are supposedly applying the correct cure.



Anne Gassel

Anne has been writing on MEW since 2012 and has been a citizen lobbyist on Common Core since 2013. Some day she would like to see a national Hippocratic oath for educators “I will remember that there is an art to teaching as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy and understanding are sometimes more important than policy or what the data say. My first priority is to do no harm to the children entrusted to my temporary care.”

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