The Missouri Legislature passed HB 1490 that required the state of Missouri to create new educational standards. The purpose, while not explicitly stated, was to block the spread of Common Core in Missouri. The first of the meetings of the committee began this week. Attendees were surprised to find the meeting co-opted by the Missouri Department of Education. The Department of Education was purposely not invited to host the meetings by the Legislature. That didn’t stop Governor Jay Nixon from interfering.
One attendee, writing in the American Spring website, reported the initial meeting.
DESE and The Hijacking of HB 1490
Last Friday, I received confirmation from the Speaker of the Missouri House of Representatives office that I was picked to be a participant on a work group established by HB 1490. This allows for groups of parents and educators to work together to develop standards for our schools. The language of HB 1490 is as follows, as related to the makeup of these work groups:
3. Work group members shall be selected in the following manner:
(1) Two parents of children currently enrolled in grades kindergarten through twelve shall be selected by the president pro tempore of the senate;
(2) Two parents of children currently enrolled in grades kindergarten through twelve shall be selected by the speaker of the house of representatives;
(3) One education professional selected by the state board of education from names submitted to it by the professional teachers’ organizations of the state;
(4) One education professional selected by a statewide association of Missouri school boards;
(5) One education professional selected by the state board of education from names submitted to it by a statewide coalition of school administrators;
(6) Two education professionals selected by the president pro tempore of the senate in addition to the members selected under subdivision (1) of this subsection;
(7) Two education professionals selected by the speaker of the house of representatives in addition to the members selected under subdivision (2) of this subsection;
(8) One education professional selected by the governor;
(9) One education professional selected by the lieutenant governor;
(10) One education professional selected by the commissioner of higher education;
(11) One education professional selected by the state board of education from names submitted to it by nationally-recognized career and technical education student organizations operating in Missouri; and
(12) One education professional selected by the state board of education from names submitted to it by the heads of state-approved baccalaureate-level teacher preparation programs located in Missouri.
This would be a total of 16 members for each of the designated work groups. Notice that nowhere in this language will you find a role for DESE or their designees.
When I arrived at the Capital this morning, I was energized to be a part of the process that would determine the future of our children’s education, while preserving the local control of our school districts set forth in our state Constitution. As a parent in one of the state’s smallest school districts, the opportunity to work with parents and educators to define our State’s path in education is an honor. The responsibility of being appointed to these work groups is one that I definitely felt as I walked through the halls of our State Capital.
As I told the fellow members of our work group (History and Government, K-5), this is the single most important thing I have ever done in my life. I felt a swell of pride when I made that statement, along with a rush of emotion.
It is a responsibility not just to my children, but to all children, and parents, in the state of Missouri.
When I made my way to the Truman Building to meet the members of our work group, I was ready to get about this serious work. Upon arriving, I found myself faced with a reality that was the anti-thesis of what I was expecting and completely contrary to the language in HB 1490.
I walked in to find a small group of people, considerably less than the full 16 member panel clearly defined in HB 1490. Only ten members of our group were assembled. This was the first disappointment of the day.
I was greeted by a ‘facilitator’ when I entered the conference room. This person had assumed the role of leadership over our work group and was flanked by two other representatives from the Missouri Department of Secondary and Elementary education. I was puzzled. DESE, according to HB 1490, was not supposed to be a participant in these work sessions. While they are open to the public (and I encourage anyone who can attend to do so), DESE is not supposed to have a role in these groups. The state legislature went to great lengths to determine who is supposed to participate in these sessions. They did not list DESE in the language above, defining the makeup of these groups.
I didn’t say anything at first. I wasn’t entirely sure what I was witnessing. Soon after I took my seat, it became abundantly clear.
I was witnessing the same assumption of authority by DESE that has become the standard in schools across Missouri. DESE’s ‘facilitator’ was lying in wait to execute a coup of the process set forth by HB 1490, perched behind her Power Point presentation like a Black Widow ready to devour any hapless fly who dissented from DESE’s darling, the Common Core Standards.
The column continues. The DESE packed the room and then used those non-workgroup attendees to ram-rod the meeting to conform to the goals set by the DESE, not the work-group members. Other reports about the session mirror the comments above.
Tension marks Missouri education goals rewrite
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — An effort to rewrite Missouri’s educational standards got off to a tense and sometimes confrontational start Monday as parents and educators opposed to the Common Core guidelines clashed with those reluctant to ditch them.
Under a new Missouri law, eight task forces each comprised of more than a dozen appointees are supposed to recommend new learning benchmarks for public school students to replace the national Common Core guidelines by the 2016-2017 school year.
But not all of the appointees had been named in time for Monday’s initial meetings. Those who were present first argued about whether to actually meet, then about whether officials from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education should be present, who should take notes, and whether the public should be allowed to watch their work.
More than an hour into its meeting, one task force decided to shut off an education department video camera that had been recording its proceedings.
After resolving issues about how to meet, task force members sparred over the merits of the Common Core standards, which were developed by a national organization of state school officers and the National Governors Association. They are used to gauge students’ progress from grade-to-grade and create consistency between states. But opponents say they were adopted without enough local input.
Missouri is among 45 states to have adopted the Common Core standards but is one of several now backing away from them. Indiana, Oklahoma and South Carolina also have taken steps to rewrite their standards, North Carolina is reviewing its guidelines and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal has suspended his state’s testing contracts in an attempt to halt Common Core standards.
Missouri’s attempt to forge new standards got off to such a shaky start Monday that some wondered whether it ultimately could succeed.
“If they can’t come to a consensus, what do you do at that point?” said Sarah Potter, spokeswoman for the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. “We’re not really sure.”
There was a clear divide among task force members between Common Core opponents appointed by Republican legislative leaders and supporters of the standards appointed by public education officials.
Before the official meetings began, about two dozen appointees of Republican legislative leaders met in the House chamber for a strategy session. Among those addressing the group was Mary Byrne, co-founder of the Missouri Coalition Against Common Core, who asserted that the standards violate state law.
In some meetings, members at times spoke over each other. While some pushed to fully abandon Common Core, others sought more of a revision of the standards.
“I get told every day by parents, ‘We’re sitting at the table for hours with tears in our eyes,'” trying to do homework under the Common Core standards, said Brad Noel, of Jackson, a parent representative appointed by House Speaker Tim Jones to the elementary math task force. “A lot of it is, in my opinion, not appropriate.”
But “how do we know Common Core is not going to work? We’re barely into it,” said Ann McCoy, coordinator of the mathematics education program at the University of Central Missouri, appointed by the higher education commissioner. “It’s frustrating to me as an educator to change and change and change.”
James Shuls, a Jones appointee who is an associate professor in educational leadership and policy studies at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, argued that the state doesn’t need detailed standards and should instead adopt minimal requirements, leaving the rest to local districts.
The task forces are to make recommendations by October 2015 to the State Board of Education, which then must gather additional public comment.
The motivation of DESE to sabotage these meetings is their determination to retain central control over the state’s education and education policy. Loose requirements that allow local school boards to determine what is best for their schools lessens the need of state oversight—and calls in question why Missouri needs such a large Education Department…or even if we need a state Department of Education at all. When their rice-bowl is threatened, it is not surprising DESE has acted the why they have. Why, if something isn’t done, these bureaucrats could find themselves out of a job!