"I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power." - Thomas Jefferson 1820

"There is a growing technology of testing that permits us now to do in nanoseconds things that we shouldn't be doing at all." - Dr. Gerald Bracey author of Rotten Apples in Education

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Sunday, April 28, 2013

Ouch. These Common Core Meetings Didn't Go So Well for School District Officials

Concerns about the Common Core adoption and implementation keep surfacing about the lack of transparency in the process and the lack of any pilot studies providing research based documentation of CCSS proponent claims.  Hundreds of millions of dollars will be spent by the states who must adhere to the mandates drawn up by the two private trade organizations, the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Chief Council of State School Officers (CCSSO) without any direct evidence these standards, assessments, change in curricula and computer infrastructure will deliver what these organizations have promised if adopted and completed.

Utah will spend an enormous amount with its new testing system and the state had some meetings explaining the new system and Common Core to taxpayers.  District officials didn't seem to be very successful in answering citizen concerns as shown in the videos embedded in the article.  From Deseret News and Matthew Sanders: Utah Common Core testing fraught with flaws:

A key component of the Utah Common Core implementation is a new online, adaptive testing system called Student Assessment of Growth and Excellence (SAGE). The the Utah State Office of Education (USOE) contracted to pay $39 million to American Institutes of Research, a Washington, D.C., behavior and social science research organization, to build and host the new testing environment.

At the SAGE introduction in Davis County, I observed many concerns raised by parents. While there, I also asked a couple of questions, but the answers left me wanting. Upon further reflection and analysis, I believe the SAGE approach is deeply problematic, and I put forth the following questions:

Where is the evidence?

Public sector projects should carry assurance of maximum societal benefit for optimal cost. For approval, they should present evidence from research and pilot or scaled tests of the proposed reform.

Despite substantial searching, I could find no defensible studies anywhere on the USOE website, and was given no assurance by state officials that any pilot studies underpin the wholesale changes. They have not cited, as would be asked of any high school research paper, any support for their reforms. Thus, the USOE has implemented new standards, new curriculum and has spent scarce state resources on an apparently untested, unproven testing approach.

How will student data be used?

The contract with AIR contains no explicit protections of student data collected in testing by the well-known federally funded researcher. Despite repeated questions to USOE officials, they could provide no reference statutory protection of student data. USOE should provide complete assurance to families and educators that data are protected and not available for personal identification.

One of the key objectives of the Common Core initiative is to provide means for inter-state performance comparisons. However, the USOE FAQ on testing indicates that, "There are currently no national norms for the new common core or Utah Core Standards ... they cannot indicate where Utah’s students stand relative the common-core standards." So no collaborative benefits exist for developing a unique Utah test.

Why not a different approach?

Consistent with its mandate, the USOE is appropriately concerned by the college readiness of Utah students. Rather than wholesale reforms dependent on unproven curricula and tests, why not direct efforts to proven methods with known cost effectiveness?
Watch the videos and listen to the audience questions, the presenters' reactions and determine if you think these groups of taxpayers are satisfied with the districts' answers.  Watch and read more here.

The highlighted questions are questions you should keep in mind when attending one of DESE's meetings to be held around the state on the same evening, May 2 at 6:30 PM.  Listen to what Missouri bureaucrats tell you and write down the reporter's concerns and determine if they parallel your concerns during DESE's presentation:
  • Were any pilot studies done on Common Core standards before they were adopted and implemented?
  • Is there 3-5 years of research available to consider CCSS "best educational practice"?
  • Are they internationally benchmarked?  If so, where is the list?
  • How will the student data be used?
  • What 61 data points are currently being gathered on students, where is being sent and for what purpose?
  • Does DESE have control over data retrieval and dissemination or does our consortia, the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortia?  Did SBAC sign an agreement with the US Department of Education to send Missouri data to the Federal Government?
  • Has a cost effectiveness study been done?  If not, why not?
We'll have to wait and see after Thursday night if Missouri taxpayers are any happier with Missouri DESE answers than the Utah taxpayers were with their state agency's responses. 

Here is the list of meeting places around the state for May 2.  Meetings begin at 6:30 PM.

Hazelwood District Office
15955 New Halls Ferry Rd, Florissant, MO 63031

Lindbergh District Office
4900 South Lindbergh Blvd., St. Louis, MO 63126

Cape Girardeau Career and Technology Center (CTC), Room 110
1080 South Silver Springs Road, Cape Girardeau, MO 63703

Springfield Kraft Administrative Center, Rooms A&B
1359 East St. Louis, Springfield, MO 65802

Marceline Walsworth Community Center
124 East Richie (Downtown), Marceline, MO 64658

Camdenton School District—Hawthorn Elementary School
296 Minor Street, Camdenton, MO 65020

Warrensburg Middle School, Library Media Center
640 East Gay Street, Warrensburg, MO 64093

Center Senior High School Cafeteria
8715 Holmes Road, Kansas City, MO 64131

You can access material and download information in preparation for the meeting at

Visit Missouri Coalition Against Common Core for further information regarding the adoption, implementation, cost analysis and other details on CCSS probably not provided by DESE.  It is important to know what the government might just leave out telling you about the fundamental transformation of education. 

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