GRANBY, Mo. —
The push-back against Common Core State Standards continues to gain traction in Southwest Missouri.
The East Newton Board of Education recently approved a resolution challenging the state’s plan to begin using the new standards in the 2014-15 school year, and called on state education leaders and lawmakers to re-evaluate them.
While school boards in other states have adopted similar resolutions, the East Newton panel appears to be the first board in Missouri to do so.
Common Core also dominated a public hearing on education on Wednesday night at Missouri Southern State University, with many parents and others in attendance asking legislators to slow down and review the new standards.
These actions come on the heels of meetings about Common Core held around the state this spring and summer, including Springfield, East Newton and Neosho, that drew large crowds. They also follow the unsuccessful attempt this spring of a state legislator from St. Charles to prohibit the State Board of Education from implementing Common Core.
Initially adopted by 45 states, including Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma in 2010, Common Core is a set of learning standards for students in kindergarten through 12th grade in English language arts and mathematics. The goal is to have graduating students ready for college or a career.
Implementation of the standards has garnered support in Missouri from more than 200 school districts, including Joplin, Webb City, Carl Junction, McDonald County, Jasper, Lamar, Neosho and, initially, East Newton; and from 35 colleges and universities, including Crowder College and the School of Education at Missouri Southern State University.
Jill Carter, of Granby, and other East Newton parents invited a number of experts to speak to them at meeting in June. A number of area legislators attended, as did Mary Byrne, a representative of the Missouri Coalition Against Common Core.
Carter said she first heard about Common Core when her daughter came home from school last year, and she followed that up with questions for district officials during a meeting for parents to discuss a levy increase. Initially, her questions were about the cost to the district of implementing the new standards, but as she learned more, she began to have other questions.
“Honestly, I set out to have my concerns alleviated,” she said. “You don’t buy a house without looking at it.”
Something similar has been happening in other school districts, both statewide and around the country.
And while 45 states have agreed to adopt Common Core standards, at least 13 of those states — Missouri included — have seen legislative efforts to stop their implementation.
‘Is this a business?’
Some of the language in the resolution adopted by the East Newton board is from a model resolution proposed by the Missouri Coalition Against Common Core, but board President Mark Knight said the board used several sample resolutions to develop its own statement. (East Newton Superintendent Todd McCrackin referred all questions about the issue to Knight.)
The resolution specifically asks the governor and the State Board of Education to re-evaluate the state’s participation in Common Core, and asks the Legislature to discontinue funding associated with Common Core until the re-evaluation is done.
Knight said the purpose of the resolution is to make the people in charge of the standards re-evaluate them.
“We feel it was forced on all the schools,” Knight said last week. “Essentially it’s a federal mandate you go with Common Core. The federal government should not be in our state and local schools.”
Although representatives of the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education have said the federal government played no role in creating the standards, groups such as the Missouri Coalition Against Common Core, which has been on the front lines of the fight, argue that the U.S. Department of Education — “with the encouragement of the executive branch” — tied states’ willingness to implement Common Core standards to their ability to get additional federal funding for education. Anne Gassel, a spokeswoman and one of the founders of the coalition, did not return emails asking her to comment.
Knight also argues that there is too much contradictory information coming from opponents and proponents of Common Core, and that the district shouldn’t be involved in such a highly politicized issue.
He said the potential cost for school districts is another concern.
“Nobody knows what it’s going to cost to implement,” he said.
Knight said that ideally, the state education department should have addressed the districts’ and parents’ concerns from the outset.
Knight was part of a five-member majority that approved the resolution. Board member Terry Clarkson abstained; Talmage Clubbs voted against the resolution.
Clubbs said his concern is the potential cost of the implementation, and he wanted the resolution to stick to that topic.
“A lot of the other stuff is more political in nature,” Clubbs said of the resolution.
“There’s too much out there where one side says one thing and the other side says another,” he added. “Some of that stuff, it’s unknown what’s fact and what’s not.”
Clubbs acknowledged that his vote wasn’t popular with most of the 30 or so patrons and parents attending last week’s meeting when the resolution was adopted, but he thinks they understand his reasons for voting “no.”
Carter, the East Newton parent, is worried that Missouri may have forfeited some control over education by joining a consortium of states that were drafting the Common Core standards, and that the state won’t be able to opt out in the future.
“Why is it we need to be put into a consortium of states?” Carter asked.
And she wants to know if the Common Core standards will be as rigorous as Missouri’s current state assessment tool, the Missouri Assessment Program, which has been used for more than a decade.
“Are we really doing what is in the best interests of our children, or is this a business?” Carter said. “Have our children become a business? If we took money out of it, is this what we would do?”
Another Granby parent, Beth Rasbury, said that while she wasn’t familiar with the Common Core State Standards specifically, she believes the curriculum for her son in Granby isn’t challenging him enough.
The standards are intended to be more challenging, though there is disagreement among proponents and opponents as to whether they are.
“I put my trust in the school officials,” Rasbury said.
Sarah Potter, a spokeswoman for the state education department, called the East Newton resolution disappointing, but she said that won’t make a difference.
“We’re going forward with them,” Potter said of the Common Core standards.
“If people there would talk with school administrators and teachers, I think they would be supportive of the standards,” she said. “Unfortunately, they’ve become a political hot spot.”
The state department this spring also held meetings around the state to outline Common Core. The nearest meeting, in Springfield, drew about 200 people from Southwest Missouri, including teachers, principals, school administrators, school board members and parents.
In an overview presentation, Mike Wutke, of the state education department, told the audience that Common Core provides consistent standards for students that will be comparable among the states. Before Common Core, each state defined for itself how to comply with the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act, which is the nation’s general education law. As a result, student learning expectations and assessment tests vary from state to state. Educators were often frustrated that states were compared and ranked against one another despite differences in standards and testing.
Jill LeCompte, assistant superintendent of Cassville schools, said at that meeting that Common Core would provide consistency for students in districts along state borders, where students move frequently between districts and those in nearby states.
Potter said that while many issues divide the education community, Common Core isn’t one of them.
“This is an issue that has galvanized support from the education community,” she said. “Unfortunately, a small but vocal group has hijacked the talk about Common Core.”
“My intent has not been to hijack anything,” Carter responded, when told of Potter’s comment.
“Look at the Department of Education. ... Their goal is to do what is in the best interest of our children. That is my goal as well. Are we not on the same team?”
Carter said some of the Common Core questions are coming from parents who are involved in their children’s education, and who believe they aren’t getting answers from educators and legislators despite the fact that the state is “going forward.”
“We are asking (them) to help us fully understand what the ramifications and consequences of this are,” she said. “We hope (they) would invite a discussion.”
She also said she appreciates the East Newton Board of Education pushing the pause button until it has more answers, including what the program will cost.
Addressing the question of cost, Potter said the intention is to keep the cost to school districts at the current level, with the cost of tests being maintained at $1.80 per test per student. But Carter said some small rural schools may not have the broadband capacity needed to offer the computer-based tests without additional spending by the district.
The East Newton resolution also mentions concerns about collection of student data that could be shared and that might be used to identify specific students.
Potter said there is no requirement for data collection in the Common Core State Standards and that it’s illegal for the state to share information with anyone that identifies individual students.
She also has said that the standards aren’t a curriculum and that school districts maintain full control of developing a curriculum to reach the standards.
“The whole world is running a lot faster than we are, and we need to catch up,” Potter said of the standards. “Asking more of kids is a good thing.”
JOPLIN COMMON CORE OPPONENTS have scheduled a meeting for 7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 19, in the Mills Anderson Justice Center at Missouri Southern State University. Organizer Melissa Braun said the meeting is designed to try to stop Common Core.
THE MISSOURI COALITION Against Common Core has scheduled several regional conferences around the state on Common Core State Standards and student data collection. The nearest of those will be from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 26, at the University Plaza Hotel in Springfield.
East Newton may be first district to adopt resolution challenging new standards
GRANBY, Mo. —
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