Fireworks in Missouri Over Common Core

MissouriStateFlag1The St. Louis Post-Dispatch yesterday wrote an op/ed that said Republicans continue to peddle a Common Core lie.  They write:

Some Missouri Republicans are playing their constituents for chumps. As soon as certain national Republican political consultants decided that calling Common Core a federal plot by President Barack Obama to take over schools (it is not) was a political winner, they began a national campaign to defeat the raised standards that states around the nation had worked to develop. Republican governors (especially those running for president, like Bobby Jindal in Louisiana and Chris Christie in New Jersey) reneged on their support of Common Core. Money from wealthy donors started flowing into campaign coffers of those who would stand up and oppose the alleged scourge of Common Core.

Anne Gassel with the Missouri Against Common Core Coalition told Truth in American Education that the St. Louis Post-Dispatch made one glaring omission.  “Gretchen Logue and I were plaintiffs in the lawsuit that declared SBAC an illegal interstate compact which is what the legislature was responding to with next year’s budget, so we were particularly irritated by the Post’s omission of that critical detail,” Gassel said.

Gassel said that the editorial was so full of lies and half-truths that they felt compelled to respond.  “Oddly, they simultaneously accuse the Republicans of working to keep Common Core (our state board president they call a conservative Republican and show that he wants to retain Common Core), and blame them for creating the opposition to Common Core. By their metrics, the Republicans can’t win,” Gassel added.

You can read their longer response at Missouri Education Watchdog and their shorter rebuttal below.

In “Republicans continue to peddle the Common Core lie” the editorial board lamented that Missouri took two steps back in education policy. The piece was such a work of fiction, it barely qualified for the opinion page.

We’d like to set the record straight about “the Common Core lie” and ask questions of clarification.

Fiction: Missouri legislators (especially, Kurt Bahr) are playing their constituents for chumps because HB 1490 did not eliminate common core. Fact: Governor Nixon would not to sign a bill with language explicitly eliminating common core. HB 1490 instructs work groups constituted in 2014 to “develop” academic learning standards, not rubber stamp copyrighted ones. Representative Bahr sent a written communication to the work groups stating that the intent of the bill is for Missouri to have standards in public domain.  According to the editorial, “Those standards are likely to mimic Common Core. And even if they don’t, the Board can (and will) dismiss them.” Question: Is the Post suggesting that the State Board of Education intends to defraud the public, by rejecting the work submitted by the work groups a priori.

Fiction: the Republicans, responding to wealthy campaign donors, are off loading common core as an Obama initiative. Fact: several Republican presidential candidates and governors have been stalwart in their support of common core, even in the face of increasing public rejection of the standards. Question: Is the board making a back-handed endorsement of Republican presidential candidates Jeb Bush and Mike Huckabee who support the common core standards? Why did the board finger wealthy campaign donors for messing with education policy and, not mention funding from wealthy private (Gates) and corporate (Pearson) underwriters of the Common Core State Standards Initiative. Is the Post suggesting that the 1% is only philanthropic in giving?

Fiction: legislative meddling caused a succession of tests that inhibits comparison of scores.

Fact: In February, Cole County Federal Judge Daniel Green, ruled that the SBAC Consortia is an unlawful interstate compact and prohibited payment of SBAC membership fees.  Further, SBAC failed to meet the terms of its existing contract, putting superintendents around the state in a very difficult position of trying to provide adequate preparation for the full summative tests this spring. Question: is the board suggesting that the legislature ignore the ruling or violation of contract?

Fiction: the SBAC assessment was “adequate.” Fact: To date, no published data are available to support statements that the SBAC is technically “adequate.” No validity, no reliability, no legal defensibility of decisions based on test scores. Question: How did the board determine SBAC was more adequate than an assessment DESE could develop?

It would have been gross dereliction of duty for the legislature to fund SBAC membership fees or tests or leave Missouri vulnerable to an indefensible assessment plan. How is protecting the public and following the law taking two steps back in education policy, and who is really telling the common core lie?

 

Missouri’s Membership in Smarter Balanced Found Unconstitutional

MissouriStateFlag1Fred Sauer, Anne Gassel & Gretchen Logue are co-plaintiffs in a lawsuit against Missouri Governor Jay Nixon over the state’s membership in Smarter Balanced.  The judge in their case, Cole County Circuit Court Judge Daniel Green, ruled in favor of the plaintiffs in Sauer v. Nixon and deemed Missouri’s participation in the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortia illegal.  He ruled that the fees paid by the state to Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortia are unlawful under the Compact Clause of the U.S. Constitution as well as “state and federal law.”

The Compact Clause of the U.S. Constitution states that “No State shall, without the consent of Congress … enter into any Agreement or Compact with any other State.”  In their lawsuit, Sauer, Gassel, and Logue contended that the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium is just the sort of interstate agreement that must be authorized by the U.S. Congress under this Clause.  The lawsuit contends that the consortium threatens the authority of the U.S. Congress because the federal Department of Education’s action in creating the consortium contravene Congressional prohibitions on the creation of a national curriculum.  Their lawsuit also contended that the consortium threatens the freedom and authority of non-member states by attempting to create a de facto education “cartel” aligned with Common Core.

Green has permanently enjoined the State of Missouri from making payments in the form of membership fees to Smarter Balanced.  Green back in December had placed a restraining order on payments to Smarter Balanced.  Now the state will have to withdraw from the consortia.

The state had budgeted, according to the Associated Press, $4.3 million for member dues this fiscal year.  Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster’s office is reviewing the case, and the state is expected to appeal.

Missouri Activists Sue State of Missouri Over Common Core Payments

Gretchen Logue  and Anne Gassel  of the Missouri Coalition Against Common Core have joined Fred N. Sauer in filing a taxpayer lawsuit against Governor Nixon, Commissioner Nicastro, and other state officials.  The lawsuit challenges Missouri’s payment of taxpayer money to the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, a consortium of states that is implementing tests aligned to the Common Core State Standards (“Common Core”).

Logue and Gassel’s lawsuit alleges that the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium is an unconstitutional interstate compact that was not approved by Congress, in violation of the Compact Clause of the U.S. Constitution, Article I, Section 3, Clause 10.  The suit also alleges that Governor Nixon and Commissioner Nicastro’s course of conduct in committing Missouri to Common Core was in violation of numerous federal and state statutes.

By passing HB 1490 by an overwhelming majority, the Missouri state legislature effectively repudiated Common Core, requiring it to be replaced by 2016.  But Missouri has not withdrawn from the consortium of states implementing Common Core aligned tests.  According to public records, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education plans to send millions of dollars of taxpayer funds to the Smarter Balanced consortium in 2015, which will be used to support the implementation of Common Core in numerous other states.  These payments are illegal under the federal constitution, federal statutes, and Missouri state law.

Governor Nixon and Commissioner Nicastro engaged in a long course of conduct, in cooperation with the federal Department of Education, to commit Missouri’s public schools to Common Core without legislative approval.  The “consortium” of States implementing tests aligned with Common Core constitutes an illegal end-run around federal statutes forbidding the federal Department from implementing a national test or curriculum.  Even though Missouri is committed to exiting Common Core, DESE nevertheless continues to participate in SBAC and to administer the SBAC common core aligned tests in this state.

“The Missouri Legislature and Missouri voters have rejected Common Core.  Yet DESE continues to plan to send millions of dollars of payments to the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium to support the implementation of Common Core in other states.  The consortium is an unconstitutional entity, and these payments are illegal.  We will continue to fight to protect Missouri taxes from being spent for this illegal purpose,” said Gassel and Logue.

Feds Bypass States to Get Local Districts to Sign “Future Ready District Pledge”

1024px-US-DeptOfEducation-SealMissouri Education Watchdog first reported today that the U.S. Department of Education has sent out a letter to Superintendents of local school districts explaining their “future ready district pledge.”

You can find the letter here and I also have the text below:

Dear Superintendent,

As one of more than 16,000 superintendents leading school districts across the nation, you are on the forefront of the transformation of public education. Technology now allows for personalized digital learning for every student in the nation so long as leaders have the technological infrastructure and human capacity in place to ensure success.

The Future Ready District Pledge is designed to set out a roadmap to achieve that success and to commit districts to move as quickly as possible towards our shared vision of preparing students for success in college, careers and citizenship. The U.S. Department of Education seeks to encourage and support superintendents who commit to taking a leadership role in this transition with recognition and resources to help facilitate this transition to digital learning.

In June of 2013, the President launched the ConnectED Initiative to provide 99% of students in the nation with access to high-speed Internet connectivity at the classroom level. Coupled with two billion dollars from the federal E-Rate program, increased flexibility in the use of federal funds, and billions of dollars in additional commitments from the private sector, progress towards improving the nation’s physical infrastructure has already been dramatically accelerated.

However, in order for these resources to leverage their maximum impact on student learning, schools and districts must develop the human capacity, digital materials, and device access to use the new bandwidth wisely and effectively. The Future Ready District Pledge establishes a framework for achieving those goals and will be followed by providing district leaders with additional implementation guidance, online resources, and other support they need to transition to effective digital learning and achieve tangible outcomes for the students they serve.

The U.S. Department of Education is calling on superintendents like you who lead district, charter, and private schools to join us in taking the Future Ready District Pledge and working to develop, implement, and share your technology plan with other districts so they can learn from your successes and challenges along the way.

Thank you for all you are already doing to improve the education for our nation’s students. Do not hesitate to reach out to us for support. We stand ready to help you become a Future Ready district.

Richard Culatta
Director, Office of Educational Technology
Office of the Secretary

Seth Andrew
Senior Advisor & Superintendent in Residence
Office of the Secretary

Here is the text of their pledge:

Future Ready District Pledge

I, _______________________, Superintendent of _________________________ do hereby affirm the commitment of this district to work with students, educators, families, and members of our community to become Future Ready by engaging in a wide range of activities such as:

Fostering and Leading a Culture of Digital Learning Within Our Schools.
Future Ready district leadership teams work collaboratively to transform teaching and learning using the power of technology to help drive continuous improvement. We work together to protect student privacy and to teach students to become responsible, engaged, and contributing digital citizens.
Helping Schools and Families Transition to High-speed Connectivity.
Future Ready districts conduct comprehensive diagnostic assessments of the district’s technology infrastructure and develop a sustainable plan to ensure broadband classroom connectivity and wireless access. Future Ready districts work with community partners to leverage local, state, and federal resources to support home Internet access outside of traditional school hours.
Empowering Educators through Professional Learning Opportunities.
Future Ready districts strive to provide everyone with access to personalized learning opportunities and instructional experts that give teachers and leaders the individual support they need, when they need it. Future Ready districts provide tools to help teachers effectively leverage learning data to make better instructional decisions.
Accelerating Progress Toward Universal Access for All Students to Quality Devices.
Future Ready districts work with necessary stakeholders to ensure that all students and educators across the district have regular access to devices for learning. Future Ready districts develop tools to support a robust infrastructure for managing and optimizing safe and effective use of technology, so students have opportunities to be active learners, creating and sharing content, not just consuming it.
Providing Access to Quality Digital Content.
Future Ready districts align, curate, create, and consistently improve digital materials and apps used in the support of learning. Future Ready districts use carefully selected high quality digital content that is aligned to college and career ready standards as an essential part of daily teaching and learning. Teachers are able to share, discover, and adapt openly-licensed materials and teaching plans.
Offering Digital Tools to Help Students And Families #ReachHigher.
Future Ready districts make digital resources available that help access expanded college, career, and citizenship opportunities. Future Ready districts promote ways to leverage technology to expand equity through digital activities such as completion of the FAFSA online, virtual counseling services, college scholarship search tools, and online advising access, all of which help to return America to the nation in the world with the highest college completion rate by 2020.
Mentoring Other Districts and Helping Them Transition to Digital Learning.
Future Ready districts work to design, implement, and share their technology plans. Future Ready districts join regional summits, participate in an online Connected Superintendents’ community of practice, and publish their Future Ready technology plan at a site such as www.MyDistrict.org/FutureReady.

There are numerous problems with this pledge which Anne Gassel highlights at MEW, but the most troubling aspect to this is the trend of the U.S. Department of Education bypassing states.  They have done it with the District Level Race to the Top program and other federal grants, with the Principal and Teacher Ambassador program, and now this.

Just a reminder… there is no constitutional role in education for the federal government.

Missouri Governor Signs Bill to Review and Replace Common Core

MissouriStateFlag1Gretchen Logue of Missouri Education Watchdog reported late yesterday afternoon that Governor Jay Nixon signed HB 1490 into law.  He had until August 28th to sign the bill or veto the bill.  He could have also let the bill go into effect without his signature.  The bill will keep the Common Core State Standards in place while educators and parents  give recommendations on how the standards can be improved.

The Missouri Coalition Against Common Core said in a released statement, “The Coalition expresses its appreciation to Governor Nixon and the Missouri Legislature for this first step to enable Missourians to direct and develop education for Missouri students.  We believe this is an important step forward that applies the appropriate caution when implementing a new and untried system to protect our teachers, districts and students from consequences that are not supported by valid data.

“We look forward to working with the Governor and the Legislature in the next session to further educational excellence for Missouri students.”

After the bill was first passed, MCACC said that this was not the ideal bill, but it was a start.

“We would have liked the language to be a lot stronger in terms of rejecting the Common Core State Standards. We will have to rely on the professional integrity of those selected to be on the various work groups to really focus on what is best for our students and teachers and not be swayed by outside political or financial interests,” said Anne Gassel a co-founder of MCACC in a statement released after the Missouri Legislature passed the bill.

In a nutshell this bill…

  • Mandates the state board by October 1, 2014 to convene work groups comprised of educational professionals who will develop and recommend academic standards by October 1, 2015.
  • The law also specifies (see bill text below) the types of individuals who will be appointed to those work groups (section 160.514).
  • The law requires three public hearings to be held (also in section 160.514).
  • The state board of education shall adopt and implement academic performance standards beginning in the 2016-2017 school year.  The board will then have to develop a statewide assessment system that is aligned to those standards.
  • The law states that the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education shall pilot the Smarter Balanced Assessment during the 2014-2015 school year.  What happens during the 2015-2016 school year is unclear.

The law also reiterates local control exists… “Local school districts and charter schools may adopt their own education standards, in addition to those already adopted by the state, provided the additional standards are in the public domain and do not conflict with the standards adopted by the state board of education.”

With curriculum… “the state board of education and the department of elementary and secondary education shall not be authorized to mandate and are expressly prohibited from mandating the curriculum, textbooks, or other instructional materials to be used in public schools.”

Also in regards to appendix B, etc. of the Common Core State Standards, “The state board of education and the department of elementary and secondary education shall not require districts to use any appendix to the common core state standards.”

In regards to a school’s performance with assessments, “The state board of education shall suggest, but not mandate, criteria for a school to demonstrate that its students learn the knowledge, skills and competencies at exemplary levels worthy of imitation by students in other schools in the state and nation.”

You can read the entire bill (now law) below:

Missouri HB 1490 (Final)

Missouri Rally for Excellent Education This Tuesday

Missouri State Capitol

Missouri Coalition Against Common Core will host a “Rally for Excellent Education” this Tuesday, February 18th.  Below is an email that was sent out by the group’s co-founder Anne Gassel:

If you need a GPS address you can use 201 W. Capitol Ave Jefferson City. You will most likely end up parking in one of the lots located near the capitol as parking on the circular drive fills up rapidly. There are free lots on Missouri Avenue two blocks NW of the capitol. There is also a covered parking garage on Madison St. two blocks SE of the capitol (max $6/day).

We recommend you bring your lunch. There is a small cafeteria in the capitol but it will be very busy with everyone there for the rally.

Event Schedule

Breakout sessions (basement of the Capitol-House side)
10:00 a.m. Hearing Room 2

Student Data Collection Dangers and the Need to Protect Your Child -Paul Schwartz

Opt Your Child Out of Standardized Testing (Know Your Rights) – Mary Byrne

How to talk to your legislator – Anne Gassel

If the room is full, head on up to the 1st floor rotunda to check in, get your legislator cards and find a seat for the rally. We will run this session again in the after the rally so don’t worry about not getting in.

12:00  p.m. – 1:00 p.m.
Rally – first floor rotunda

1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.
Delivery of the six cards and bill sheets, visiting with your members of the Missouri General Assembly. This is also a time for you to eat your lunch quickly if you plan to stay for the afternoon break out sessions.

2:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. Breakout sessions (basement of the Capitol-House side)

Hearing Room 2
Student Data Collection Dangers and the Need to Protect Your Child -Paul Schwartz
Opt Your Child Out of Standardized Testing (Know Your Rights) – Mary Byrne

Hearing Room 4
Using Social Media To Get The Message Out – Gretchen Logue
The Grassroots Toolkit for Media Involvement (Liberty Toolkit) – Ron Calzone,    Missouri First

Hearing Room 6
Common Core in My Child’s School (A mom’s perspective) – Stacy Shore
What You Can Accomplish in Your Community (One mom’s struggle against the education system)– Jill Carter

This event is being planned to give the members of the  leadership in both chambers, and any individuals who need it, the extra encouragement to make sure our bills get over the finish line. The 2014 session ends on Friday, May 16.

If you can’t make it to the rally….

Please contact your legislator and ask them to support these bills.

MO Out of Common Core and SBAC

HB1490 Bahr – Hearing Scheduled Thursday February 20th in House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee

SB 798 Emery
SB 514 Lamping

Student Data Protection

HB1873 Guernsey Student Data Protection Act

SB819 Wallingford 4th Amendment Protection Act

Election of State Board of Education

HJR 74 & HB1818 Dohrman

Anne Gassel’s Common Core Action List

This weekend I spoke this weekend at an event called “Exposing the Common Core” in Collinsville, IL (outside of St. Louis, MO).  Anne Gassel, the co-editor of Missouri Education Watchdog, also spoke.  I gave an overview of the Common Core and problems I had with it.  She presented an action list which I really liked and learned from.  With her permission I’m publishing it below.

  1. Join forces with other like minded people and spread the word as far as you can throughout the state. Most people don’t know about common core, where it came from, what its purpose is and where public education is heading. You will need large visible groups to get your point across that you are not the fringe. You are the average informed person.
  2. Recognize that what is going on in education, while new, has also been creeping in for a long time. We have unconsciously assigned our responsibility as parents to teach our children to publicly paid employees. We assumed they were doing a good job and had our children’s best interest at heart. Getting rid of common core will not address many of the problems with public education. This is a long mission. We must be more vigilant of what is happening in our schools and not be afraid to speak up against the little things, because those are often just the first steps towards a radically different public education.
  3. Get to know all the other parents in your child’s classroom. If you ever need to go to the administration with a problem, groups of parents will make it harder for the administration to ignore or marginalize you. Show them you are ALL watching what they do and you will make your concerns known.
  4. Identify people who can do research. Research critical dates for your state. Find copies of MOU’s signed by your officials and DOWNLOAD THEM before they disappear. READ YOUR STATE STATUTES REGARDING EDUCATION. Find our what local district’s rights are. Find out what kind of authority your state department of education has. What responsibility do they have to your legislature? Where are the checks and balances in your system? When you fight this you will need to use the law and their words against them. These will be your strongest weapons!
  5. Demand documentation for every claim proponents make. The entire education industry claims they want to make decisions based on data, so let’s agree with them. Make them share their data before you share your tax dollars.
  6. Make it easy to share your findings. Don’t make others recreate the wheel. There simply isn’t time.
  7. Keep your eye on the final goal. Don’t get caught up in power struggles, ownership, pride or the need to be seen as THE expert. Always ask if what you are doing will lead to your final goal and can many people benefit from your work.
  8. Be clear on where the right pressure points are. Don’t hound your local district for things they must do because state statute says they have to. Go to your legislature for those things. Don’t waste your time badgering your teachers about CC. They are the most impotent in all of this. Do network with teachers who also oppose CC. They can give you great insight into what is happening in the schools and where they are experiencing problems.
  9. READ WHAT YOUR KIDS MUST READ FOR SCHOOL (textbooks, worksheets etc.) . CC is just a set of standards and doesn’t have a ton of specific ideology in it. What it does, however, is allow textbook and curriculum suppliers to market products with a lot of ideology under the guise of being “aligned to CC.” The proponents of CC will tell you YOU still have control of curriculum so assert that control any time you see materials that you think are unacceptable. CC is not solely responsible for this liberal moral relativity stuff. It has been creeping in for many years, but we have remained mostly silent. In their minds, silence equals agreement. Don’t be silent.
  10. Write letters to the editor. Keep your position in front of the public. They are trying to marginalize you. Show them that there are a lot of you who think the same way about national standards and data collection on students.
  11. GET ON YOUR LOCAL SCHOOL BOARD or work to get someone you trust on there. The right candidate has time to do research on things presented by the district, is not afraid to question the status quo or demand that the voice of the public be heard. The school board must correct the role of the superintendent. He/she answers to them, not the other way around. Get the board to sign the resolution against common core.

In Illinois: Exposing the Common Core

Here is an event for those who live in Southwestern Illinois and the St. Louis, MO area.

When: August 24th, 2013 at 6:00p-8:00p (CDT)

Where: Revive Church – Collinsville,IL (1105 W. Beltline Rd, Collinsville, IL 62234)

Speakers:

The Impact of Florida’s Assessments on Private Schools

I received an email from Anne Gassel, one of our partners here, after the post on the end of course kerfuffle being experienced by at least one private school in Florida.  She made some interesting comments about the impact assessments could have with Florida’s private schools.

With her permission I’m sharing her thoughts here:

Thinking about the overall impact of this.

1. Could incentivize parents to put kids back in the public system for fear that their work in private schools will not be recognized. This would overload a public system that has, to date, counted on the private system taking some kids off their hands.

2. Some parents would be willing to “risk” staying in private schools so long as such a move does not prevent their kids from getting into college. The colleges’ response to this ruling would be crucial.  Would they be willing to accept alternative tests/scores from students in private schools for admissions?

a)  If yes, then there is little impact of this legislation, other than another parallel system will have to be developed to recognize and rank private school students.

b) If no, and they in essence support public school credits/assessment scores only for admission, what will happen to the caliber of student they admit? Most colleges readily accept private school students because they have a history of being superiorly prepared for the rigors of the college coursework. They also tend to do very well upon graduation making them exactly the kind of alumnae colleges want – someone whose success they can claim some credit for and someone whose pocket has money in it to donate. And think of the current alums who came from those private schools whose progeny cannot get into their alma mater. That will not help donations either. If they don’t think of some way to accommodate these students they will be shooting themselves in the fiscal foot. “Someone” should make them aware of this dynamic.