In an effort to understand why Missouri legislators voted to opt out of Common Core, I wrote the following letter June 21, 2014 and sent it to several state representatives.
My colleagues and I are retired St. Joseph, MO teachers who have written a book for new teachers, Teacher’s Tackle Box. We are in the process of writing another book to help teachers create a cohesive classroom environment so they can successfully embrace the new educational standards. We were wondering why the Missouri legislature decided to reject the Common Core and endorse the idea of rewriting the standards. We have read the news releases about the legislation, but have never seen the explanation for the decision. Would you help us understand the reasoning behind the ruling?
Representative Kurt Bahr, who was the sponsor for the legislation, sent the following letter in response, June 23, 2014.
Dear Ms. Piercy,
The legislature decided that we would not give the education of our students over to an outside company. We wanted Missouri to be responsible for educating their own students. In this time of frugality within the education system, it seems reckless to send millions of dollars to a private company in the state of Washington for the right to use their copyrighted standards. Furthermore, if we found a problem with those standards we were not allowed to change them. Thus taking all control away from school districts and teachers.
Additionally, the Memo of Understanding signed by Gov. Nixon included a section which would have allowed teachers to be evaluated based on assessments. There was no discussion on how that was to be achieved and it would only force more and more emphasis on taking tests than actually educating our students.
Then you include the costs of trying to get enough bandwidth to all the schools in Missouri so that their students could take the tests, it was just a huge amount of money that could be going to classrooms and hiring teachers and tutors. Even Frances Howell School District in St. Charles County did not have enough bandwidth for their middle schools but the governor would expect them to come up with the money to pay for it. For three years, our office has repeatedly requested the final figure on what this would cost local districts and we could not get the information from DESE. I am sure you would not agree to make a big purchase for your home without finding out how much it would cost and we weren’t willing to buy into Common Core without finding out the cost.
Additionally, we could not get a true reading of the data that would have been requested by the consortium about our teachers and students.
Thus, we as a legislature decided that we were going to make sure our school districts, teachers, and parents had more control over our educational system. We have attempted to safeguard the data but more work needs to be done on that. Teachers files now cannot leave their schools. Teachers and parents will be in the work groups drawing up the new standards and it will be an open and transparent transition.
Legislative Assistant to Rep. Kurt Bahr, District 102
Representative Vicki Englund sent the following letter August 11, 2014 explaining why she fought to keep the Common Core Standards.
Dear Ms. Piercy,
Thank you very much for your email regarding Common Core. I agree with your position that the Missouri Legislature’s final decision on Common Core is an unfortunate one.
Common Core was a very controversial issue this year. There was a large movement against the federal standards spearheaded by radical conservative groups like the Tea Party. Despite a plethora of evidence to the contrary, these groups publicized an image of the standards as a federal attack on parental freedom to raise children and an effort by the Obama Administration to brainwash children.
HB 1490, sponsored by Representative Kurt Bahr (R, St. Charles) was initially devised to totally outlaw any federal education standards and make them unenforceable in Missouri. After months of battle between those who support the Common Core standards, myself included, and those who wanted to outlaw them, a compromise was reached. That compromise was inserted into HB 1490 in the form of a number of amendments.
The Common Core standards have been incorporated into the Missouri Learning Standards. These standards have been in the process of implementation for three years now, and will continue to be implemented next year. HB 1490 establishes a committee to evaluate the effectiveness of the Missouri Learning Standards by the end of next year. This committee may then make recommendations for the alteration of these standards. These recommendations may include all, part, or none of the Common Core standards.
While the committee will determine which standards must be implemented, they may not prohibit any school district from implementing higher or additional standards. It is also important to note that local school districts will still decide the curriculum and instructional materials to be used to meet the required standards.
Thank you very much for your email. I look forward to hearing and reading more about the Teacher’s Tackle Box. Please contact me with any additional questions or concerns.
Representative Vicki Englund
District 94 – South St Louis County
Missouri House of Representatives
201 West Capitol Avenue, Room 135BB
Jefferson City, MO 65101