The St. Louis Post Dispatch printed an editorial on June 8, 2015 bashing our legislature for defunding the SBAC tests, calling their work last session “Kabuki theater” and claiming that the fix is in for the Board of Education to choose to keep Common Core.  We have submitted a shortened version of this response to the Post to rebut their editorial, but include the longer version here.

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“Republicans continue to peddle the Common Core lie” regarding the legislature’s actions on SBAC testing and Common Core Standards was such a work of fiction it barely qualified to be on the opinion page. The Post Dispatch Editorial Board described the legislature as if it operated in a vacuum defunding the Smarter Balanced Assessments Consortia and the Common Core Standards. The truth is that it was the Governor, Commissioner of Education and the State Board of Education operating in a vacuum, devoid of statute or constitutional constraints, which gave us the untested standards and invalid tests in the first place. They were not authorized to commit the management of the state education system to the privately developed and copyrighted CCSSI. Nor did they act responsibly by exposing the state to unknown future financial obligation should the CCSSI copyright be sold or transferred.

While HB1490 didn’t explicitly reject the SBAC test, it did require the state to develop a test aligned with the standards, a requirement under NCLB. Since the standards are changing, of necessity, so should the test. Continuing to use the SBAC test would have placed the state in violation not only of its own statutes, but also federal law. Existing state law requires Missouri to use tests with published validity and reliability data. An SBAC memo admitted they only has plans to eventually obtain such data. The test is still in the developmental phase with no such published data to indicate it is “adequate” as the editorial claims. The Post offers no justification for claiming that a Missouri developed test would not be adequate. The editorial also failed to mention the lawsuit adjudicated by Judge Green which declared the testing Consortia an illegal interstate compact. These elements necessitated the legislature’s action to defund our state’s involvement with an illegal entity for an invalid instrument.

It also would have been gross dereliction of duty for the legislature to continue to fund a contract with a vendor who was in violation of the terms of the existing contract in which SBAC was required to provide formative assessments beginning in 2014-15 school year. Their failure to meet the terms of the contract put superintendents around the state in a very difficult position trying to provide adequate preparation for the full summative tests this spring.

As for adding unnecessary levels of bureaucracy, the process for developing new assessments in Missouri has been in place since 1993 and requires all stakeholders, including teachers, parents and businesses, to advise the state board regarding assessments. This was not done when the state signed on with SBAC. It is one thing for the Post to be ignorant of the law, but it is entirely unacceptable for the Governor, Commissioner and State Board of Education to not know and follow state statute.

The legislature was following state statute, court orders and being good fiduciary stewards.  How is this, as the editorial said, taking two steps back?

Opposition to common core did not originate with national Republican political consultants. Those consultants have been working overtime to help spin Common Core for presidential candidates who have been stalwart supporters of the standards. It is truly baffling to see the Post supporting a Jeb Bush/Mike Huckabee-backed education reform initiative or one so heavily backed by private millionaires and billionaires. Opposition to Common Core began with grassroots activists including parents and teachers who brought the issue to the attention of the legislators, not the other way around. To call the opposition a conspiracy ignores the facts about  CCSSI’s origin and purpose, gleaned by the grassroots from the websites and documents of those who gladly boasted about creating the standards.

The Post fantasizes about and decries money flowing from unnamed wealthy donors into campaign coffers to oppose common core.  Is that money any more tainted than the money from wealthy donors flowing into private groups like the unions, the chamber of commerce, PTA, and others  in support of the standards? Why isn’t the Post calling out the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation which boasts $200+ million spent so far supporting CCSSI and has placed former staffers and associates into positions within the US Department of Education to further this agenda? Or Pearson which profits from services offered in every aspect of the education reform movement including teacher VAM using test scores from a test aligned with standards that Pearson actively participated in writing and is currently administering? Which is worse; money used to support the democratic process of electing government representation, or that used to circumvent the structure of government to further the interest of private, unelected corporations?

The comments about the workgroups show a complete lack of understanding of existing state law regarding the standards development process as well as a grossly inaccurate characterization of workgroup meetings over the last eight months. The comments were disrespectful towards the teachers and parents following the instructions of HB1490 to “develop” new standards, not rubber stamp copyrighted ones. In its statement, “Those standards are likely to mimic Common Core. And even if they don’t, the Board can (and will) dismiss them,“ the Post appears to accuse the State Board of Education of the intent to commit fraud, by failing to follow the law in not considering the work done by the statutorily created work groups. If evidence exists to support such a statement, the Post, as the fourth estate, should provide that evidence to the public.

There is plenty of lying going on about common core, but the Post has doesn’t know who is doing it.

 

 

 

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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