The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

August 17, 2013

Common Core critics voice their concerns at Neosho meeting

NEOSHO, Mo. — Opponents of Common Core education standards said last week they fear the new standards could violate student privacy and weaken local control of schools.

The complaints were voiced Thursday at the Neosho High School auditorium, where about 70 people turned out for a meeting. Speakers were Mary Byrne, a founder of the Missouri Coalition Against Common Core, and Dan Decker, superintendent of the Neosho School District.

Common Core is a set of learning standards for students in kindergarten through 12th grade in English and math. The standards were initially adopted by 45 states, including Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma in 2010. They are scheduled to be implemented in Missouri in the 2014-15 school year.

Byrne, who has a doctorate in education and who has worked as a special education teacher and university faculty member, describes herself as an education consultant.

She said education and elected officials in Missouri and many other states initially signed on to the Common Core standards in order to obtain federal stimulus funds provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

However, in some of those states, legislators are now reconsidering previous support in light of growing criticism.

Byrne said state law requires active classroom teachers in the state to make up the majority of groups creating state education standards, but that didn’t happen with Common Core.

“Somebody ignored it when they signed away your state sovereignty,” Byrne told the group.

During a meeting on Common Core standards in Springfield last spring, state education officials, including Mike Wutke, said Common Core provides consistent standards for students that makes them comparable among the states. States currently have different sets of standards and assessments.

But critics have said the states did not have a large enough voice in drafting those standards, that they give a larger role in education than the federal government, that the standards are not as good as ones being used now and that they will be costly for cash-strapped districts.

Byrne also said last week that data collection related to Common Core could violate privacy laws. She said that even if the information doesn’t identify students by name, people can still use data analysis tools to determine the identity of individual students.

Sarah Potter, DESE spokeswoman, challenged that assertion from Jefferson City in a telephone interview last week. She was not at the meeting.

“There are no data collection requirements” related to the standards, Potter said. “It’s illegal for us to share student identifiable data.”

Potter also said the Common Core standards are higher than what the state uses now and they also compare favorably nationally and internationally.

“The goal of Common Core is that all students be prepared to enter college or university without remediation,” Potter said. “If you talk with colleges and universities, they’re all on board with these, because so many students come to them unprepared.”

Byrne said opponents need to make their voices heard to state legislators. Bills to eliminate the Common Core standards in Missouri are expected to be introduced again in the next legislative session.

“We need a spine,” Byrne said. “Our school boards need a spine, and we need to tell DESE, ‘You have overreached your authority.’ I submit that your liberties have been violated.”

Decker, the Neosho superintendent, said he feels stuck in the middle. He said rejecting state standards could result in forgoing funding.

“Standards, as a rule, I don’t think are a bad thing,” Decker said.

He added that he didn’t like the idea of standards being forced upon the district, though he acknowledged that has happened throughout his 22-year career in education.

“The bottom line is we still have local control,” Decker said, noting that it would be up to the school board, principals and classroom teachers as to how education standards are met.

“We will continue to do it the way we feel is best,” he added.

During audience comments and questions, Heath Mooneyham, of Neosho, said: “We’re moving toward the lowest common denominator as we’re moving toward becoming a socialist country” with the standards.

Byrne left those attending with a final comment.

“The future is this close, and you don’t have to swallow this pill,” she said.

See the standards

The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education website about Common Core State Standards is missourilearningstandards.com.

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