Missouri is Officially Out of Smarter Balanced

MissouriStateFlag1The Missouri Legislature officially ended the state’s relationship with Smarter Balanced the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.  The state’s involvement in Smarter Balanced was found unconstitutional this winter.  The judge enjoined the state from making payments to the Common Core assessment consortia, and now the state legislature defunded it.

From the Dispatch:

Lawmakers directed the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to sever ties with the test developer, Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, which provided 17 other states with exams aligned with the Common Core. The provision is part of an appropriations bill that Gov. Jay Nixon signed into law. It eliminates $4.2 million the education department needed to pay Smarter Balanced for next year’s tests.

“The money taken out was an absolute frontal attack of the perception of Common Core,” said Peter Herschend, president of the Missouri Board of Education, at a May meeting. “No question about it. What is tragic about that is, it will drive us to four separate testing systems over four years.”

The provision provides the department with $7 million to develop standardized tests to replace those developed by Smarter Balanced. But next year’s testing window begins in nine months. Developing a new set of tests typically takes more than a year.

The move has Missouri education officials scrambling to figure out how they’ll test students next spring. Not testing students would violate federal law.

What I find fascinating is how the president of the state board of education is whining about money being eliminated that they were not legally able to spend.  Instead of trying to appeal the lawsuit they lost perhaps they could have started the test development process earlier to avoid being in a bind.  Also is there anything preventing them from using the assessment the state used prior to Smarter Balanced next year?

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.

Scott Walker Calls on Wisconsin State Legislature to Repeal Common Core

Photo by Gage Skidmore

Photo by Gage Skidmore

(CaffeinatedThoughts.com) Yesterday Governor Scott Walker (R-WI) out of the blue issued a press release calling for Wisconsin to repeal the Common Core.

He said in a prepared statement, “Today, I call on the members of the State Legislature to pass a bill in early January to repeal Common Core and replace it with standards set by people in Wisconsin.”

Governor Walker has been relatively quiet on the standards.  He told reporters last fall that he’d like Wisconsin to have its own unique standards that were higher than what was already established.  “I’d like us to be in the position where we can identify our own unique standards that I think in many ways will be higher and more aggressive than the ones they’re talking about,” Walker said.

The Governor’s spokesperson said that his statement was to clarify his position  after the  the Cedarburg School Board voting 5-0 to ask the state to delay implementing the Smarter Balanced Assessments, the Common Core assessment consortia Wisconsin belongs to, by two years.  The Germantown School District last December voted to move away from the Common Core and develop its own standards instead.

Walker did not mention Common Core during this year’s state of the state address instead focusing on his school to work initiative.  At the state education conference he did mention Common Core.

“Like every other parent across the state, I want our education system to help our kids excel and reach their full potential,” Walker said. “Federal standards in education may be raising the bar in some states, but in Wisconsin, we can do better.  The education leaders here in our state are most qualified to assess the best way to take the standards we set for students to the next level.”

Walker worked with members of the Legislature in both chambers crafting legislation that would have created a process that would develop Wisconsin-based model academic standards.  Specifically this legislation would have created a commission to review the the Common Core, and Wisconsin Superintendent of Public Instruction Dr. Tony Evers would have chaired it.  Evers, a Democrat, threatened a lawsuit if the Common Core is rejected by the Legislature and Walker.

That legislation sponsored by State Senator Leah Vukmir (R-Wauwatosa), SB 619, failed to pass.  The Wisconsin Assembly had formed a select committee on the Common Core State Standards that issued a report of its activities that included public hearings held throughout the state prior to the legislative session.  The lack of action by the Legislation prompted an open letter signed by leaders of 45 grassroots organizations in the state saying that they now “owned” the Common Core.

“It’s campaign season in Wisconsin and around the country and, not surprisingly, politics trumps sound policy,” Evers said in a released statement.  “The notion that Wisconsin could simply repeal our standards or take a two year time out on our assessments not only runs counter to both state and federal law, it jeopardizes important reforms like educator effectiveness and school and district accountability.  But most importantly it brings chaos to our children and our classrooms.”

“The idea that they’d just be able to replace the standards at the beginning of the legislative session is absurd,” said Steve Kestell (R-Elkhart Lake), the chair of the Assembly’s Education Committee told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “We’re in an election season. People desperate to be re-elected will say anything.”

Kestell announced in April that he would not be running for reelection.  Reelection may have been a hard sell after activists in the Wisconsin Republican Party’s 2nd, 4th and 6th Congressional District caucuses passes a resolution of no-confidence and no support for Kestell, as well as, his counterpart in the Wisconsin Senate – Senate Education Committee Chair Luther Olson (R-Ripon).  Kestell represented parts of Wisconsin’s 6th Congressional District.

Walker’s Democratic challenger, Mary Burke, is a member of the Madison School Board.  Burke is a supporter of the Common Core State Standards and her campaign criticized Walker’s statement.  “This is a desperate election year move by a career politician to shore up his extreme right-wing base,” said a statement from Burke spokesman Joe Zepecki.

Common Core opposition according to recent polls is not partisan however.

Walker is in a tight race with Burke.  The last poll conducted by Marquette University has Walker up by 3 points.

Walker’s announcement comes shortly after returning from the National Governor’s Association meeting last weekend.  Common Core was a topic avoided on the agenda.  This week Missouri Governor Jay Nixon (D) signed legislation that would review and replace the Common Core in his state.  North Carolina Governor Pat McCroary (R) said that he would sign a repeal and replace bill his state’s legislature passed this week.  Utah Governor Gary Hebert (R) announced he wants the Common Core reexamined.  He said he was going to ask his state’s Attorney General see what, if any, federal entanglements the Common Core has brought to the state.  New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (R) signed an executive order that will create a commission to review the Common Core.  Common Core opponents in Christie’s state believe the executive order is meaningless.  Iowa Governor Terry Branstad (R) called the Common Core “radioactive” when talking to reporters at the NGA meeting.  Caffeinated Thoughts reported earlier this week, that the Iowa Department of Education still has not acted on the executive order Branstad issued last fall.

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 Legislature Passes Common Core Replacement Bill

Missouri-State-Capitol_thumb.jpg

The Missouri Legislature voted 131 to 12 in the House and 23 to 6 in the Senate in favor of the conference report for HB 1490.  This bill, if signed by Missouri Governor Jay Nixon, would replace the Common Core State Standards by the 2016-2017 school year, and a new assessment to align with those standards within three years.  It also outlines a development process for new standards.  It also says that next school year’s Smarter Balanced pilot tests will not be used for purposes of accountability.

Here is the summary of HB 1490 passed today:

The bill revises the laws regarding learning standards and assessments in elementary and secondary education by:

(1) Specifying that whenever the State Board of Education in the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education develops, evaluates, modifies, or revises academic performance or learning standards, it must convene two work groups, one for grades kindergarten through five and one for grades six through twelve, for each of four specified subject areas;

(2) Specifying the makeup of each 14-person work group and designating the persons or entities responsible for the appointment of members;

(3) Requiring the state board to hold at least three public hearings during the development of the standards at certain time periods in their development and specifying the groups from which it must solicit feedback. All comments must be made publicly available;

(4) Clarifying that a school district or charter school may adopt its own standards in addition to the current state standards as long as the standards are in the public domain;

(5) Requiring, by October 1, 2014, the state board to convene work groups to develop new academic performance standards by October 1, 2015, in place of the common core state standards. The work groups must report to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President Pro Tem of the Senate every month on their progress;

(6) Requiring the department to pilot assessments from the Smarter Balance Consortium during the 2014-15 school year, but exempting that year’s results from use in accountability decisions or teacher evaluations for the that school year;

(7) Requiring the adoption and implementation of new academic performance standards by the state board beginning with school year 2016-17. The state board must align the statewide assessment system to the new standards as needed within three years of adopting new standards; and

(8) Specifying that any person who does work that normally requires a teacher’s or administrator’s certificate must be an employee of the school district or charter school, and that the person’s evaluations must be maintained in his or her personnel file and not shared with any state or federal agency.

Update: The summary above has been changed.  I removed the paragraph related to state board of education member term limits.  Some student data protection has been added to the bill.  You can read that here.  Also read the Missouri Education Watchdog article on this as well.

“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. The coalition is a grassroots group made up of mothers and fathers, grandparents, teachers and school board members who are working together to restore local control of education.

Missouri Common Core Transparency Bill Passes Out of Committee

missouri-state-capitol-riverThe Missouri House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee passed SB 210 out of committee on a 17-0 vote yesterday after a 2 hour-long public hearing which included 900 written witness statements by those who supported the bill and testimony by the Missouri Education Commissioner Chris Nicastro who I was told didn’t really address the content of the bill.

SB 210 requires the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to hold public hearings on the Common Core State Standards in every congressional district.  Prior to the first public hearings the department will be required to conduct and post a fiscal analysis of the Common Core State Standards cost on the state and local school districts.  They are also required to compile a report of what data will be collected and what entities will receive that information.

The bill also requires public notifications of the meetings, fiscal study and report on data collect by DESE and local school districts so parents can attend and have access to that information.  All hearings are to be conducted by December 31, 2013.  DESE is then to compile a report to be issued to the President Pro Tempore of the Missouri Senate, Speaker of the Missouri House of Representatives and the joint committee on education that summarizes public testimony on the Common Core State Standards.  This is due by January 31, 2014.

This bill is informational only so a repeal bill will still be needed.  Talking to Gretchen Logue of Missouri Education Watchdog I was informed that the bill is expected to pass out of the House Rules Committee (all bills go through this committee prior to a floor vote).  She said it may go to the floor for a vote as early as today.  If it passes, and she thinks that it will… it needs to sit for 24 hours before it can go back to the Senate.  The Senate needs to revote on it since accreditation language unrelated to the Common Core was taken out of the bill.  Logue expects that it will pass out of the Senate once again.  It is likely that Missouri Governor Jay Nixon will not sign the bill, but after a period of time due to a veto-proof majority the bill will become law.

Anyway, it’s looking very, very good.

Photo Credit: Donald Hilt, Jefferson City