House Ed CommLast night the House Education Committee held a public hearing, in Columbia, as part of a statewide listening tour to address various education issues. Dr. Mary Byrne was finally able to present the research of the Missouri Coalition Against Common Core to this committee. Her testimony was so compelling that she held their attention for a good 30 minutes, far beyond the usual 3 minutes alloted the public.

Covered topics include:

  • Missouri statute violations associated with the adoption of common core
  • American Diploma Project, which became the foundation for the Common Core Standards, in which Missouri was neither a surveyed state nor a program partner.
  • Marc Tucker’s Dear Hillary Letter

To see more of what was said, watch Mary’s presentation at the Common Core Conference held in Kansas City.

Representative McNeil,  a Representative who has previously been skeptical of anti-common core claims, asked where MCACC was when NCLB, which is still the law of the land, was being implemented. Either she doesn’t know or she forgot that NCLB allowed the state to follow statute and develop our own standards with our own teachers and experts.  It also allowed Missouri to develop and continuously improve, based on teacher feedback, our MAP test. Neither of these conditions exist under Common Core.  Her question also seems to indicate that she believes it is the public’s responsibility to stand up to federal intrusion not the legislature’s since they did nothing to  push back against NCLB either. Byrne replied that the federal government had no right to try to obliterate the bell curve of student performance and should have been sued for overstepping their authority at the time.

McNeil pursued questioning of what MCACC’s proposal is to get us out of the requirements of NCLB. When she suggested that Commissioner Nicastro came to the legislature three years ago looking for a solution to NCLB, the room came unglued. Even her peers on the committee did not appear to stand with Representative McNeil on that assertion.

The answer is written into state statute and the waiver application itself. Develop standards that your institutes of higher education believe will produce students who are college and career ready. Interestingly, Missouri was already well on track to do that and had the beginning of the math standards completed a year before the Governor signed us on to Common Core. SB389 passed in 2007 started that work and it should continue so that Missouri retains controls of its standards and assessments.

University of  Missouri John Lannin professor testified and endorsed Common Core. Then, 8th grader Natalie Sales testified that Mizzou got $250,000 from the Gates Foundation to support CC which begs the question how unbiased was such an endorsement. Upon further questioning by the committee it was discovered that the professor was from the college of education mathematics department, the same place where Barbara Reys , the woman who gave our state Everyday Math and math standards that were rated a D by Fordham Institute, is currently employed. His comments would have been more credible if he came from the actual mathematics department of Mizzou. Professors there think common core’s math standards are only a little better than what we had, but could be much better if they would have followed the recommendations of the National Mathematics Advisory Panel which neither Missouri’s old math standards nor Common Core developers did.

Privately after these hearings, several representatives told those who oppose common core that they plan to defund the assessments that are aligned to CC. This doesn’t completely get Missouri out from under. DESE has just selected the vendor for our statewide assessments which is McGraw Hill, who was at the table in the development of the SBAC system. So we may get out of the consortia, but we will still be stuck with its high tech expensive product.

Representative Rowland asked how the original vision for Common Core, to develop standards that would allow student performance to be compared across states, would be retained if the 19 states that are considering dropping out of the standards are successful. We have had the ability to do this sort of aggregate comparison for years in the National Assesment of Educational Progress (NAEP.) There are those who complain about some of the NAEP’s shortcomings, but it has an established track record (something SBAC and PARCC do not have) and the ability to drill down to the individual school level. What it can’t do is drill down to the individual student or teacher level, and that is not something that parents are teachers have been clamoring for.

Roland’s inquiry, however, brings into focus the whole idea of where we are really headed. The standards are, in Bill Gates’ words, just the beginning. To really deliver on the promise of comparability and standardization across states we will have to move towards, again in Gates’ own words, “a common curriculum,” the one thing they are saying, for now, that the local districts have total control over. There will have to be a universal pacing guide to keep every teacher in every grade on the same curriculum page each day so a child who moves does not miss any content.

If your vision only extends to the hill in front of you, you will simply have another hill to climb the next day. Opposition to Common Core standards lies in the recognition of the looming mountain of private control of education being set up with the acceptance of Common Core ELA and math standards. They are just one element in a package of education reform that parents, teachers and even some wise legislators reject.

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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