"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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Tuesday, May 14, 2013

DESE Commissioner Doesn't Like Citizen's Question on Data Gathering

Dottie Bailey covered the hearing on SB210 House Education Committee yesterday.  She caught up with Education Commissioner Chris Nicastro after her testimony, wanting to ask her about the state's move from collecting aggregate student data collection to a student level data collection system.  A question that has not been satisfactorily answered in any of the May 2 DESE hearings is if individual student data is being gathered by DESE and if so, where that individual data is being sent.  Dottie attempted to ask the commissioner that question and this is what happened:


From Notes and phone slapped down by Chris Nicastro…for asking a question:

On Monday May 13th, 2013 I made my way down to Missouri’s Capitol, Jefferson City.  I wanted to attend the SB210 House Education Hearing Committee meeting regarding Common Core.  SB210 is not massive legislation, it is just asking for DESE (Department of Elementary and Secondary Education) to have meetings in each of the 8 Congressional Districts in Missouri.

Just doing my duty as a citizen journalist, I got a statement from the bill’s sponsor Representative Kurt Bahr and a few other Representatives on the committee.

Not shocked but disappointed there was not one other journalist in the entire Capitol from what I could tell. I thought the place would and should be covered with them regarding this major news story and the general public’s interest.  But who was I kidding, crickets made louder noises.  

Additionally, this Friday, May 17th is the end of this legislative session.  I peeked in on the gallery floor from the second floor and it looked like little ants with laptops running amock.  The only one with any poise or maybe it was the gavel, but the Speaker seemed to have everything under control and was directing traffic with ease.

Another reason I went to Jefferson City that Monday is that I wanted to try and get a statement, you know since I’m in the neighborhood.  A statement from someone in DESE regarding the recent audit that showed an unaccounted for amount of $130 million dollars.  Easy enough or so I thought, silly citizen journalist…

During earlier discussions of SB210, it was found that DESE has not followed the foundation formula used to distribute the $130 million dollars to the districts. One of the amendments was to have an interim committee look into this situation. (See my previous blog) However before the hearing on Monday I found out that amendment had been taken out.  O.K., no problem, I can still ask the question that no one is asking.

Many people in Missouri and around the country are concerned about Common Core and it’s data collection aspirations.  This is one of the items the people want more clarification on from DESE.  They want to ask their own questions, just not be spoken to like third graders. Up to this point DESE delivers their talking points and says how great the Common Core Standards are going to be……enter the love music..ugh.

I had in my possession, a screen shot from DESE’s own website regarding the sharing of information to the Federal government.  You can go to their website and see it for yourself here.  The whole overview but particularly the last paragraph states that instead of data being collected as aggregate now will transition into being collected on an individual level.

Half way through the hearing, the Commissioner of Education, Chris Nicastro was speaking.  She went on and on about the wonders of Common Core.  One of the Representatives asked about the cost of broadband needed for the assessments to take place.  Commissioner Nicastro said, “I believe that broadband should be a Civil Right.” No I am not kidding.  The room erupted in laughter trying to hide their disgust.  Hey John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, you guys forgot something in the Constitution…Life, Liberty and unlimited access to 24/7 Broadband.  Truly the Founders did a couple back flips in their graves.

Near the end of her time given to speak she was asked about the sharing of individual student’s data being shared with the government.  She assured everyone that only aggregate information would be shared.  The little hairs stood up on the back of my neck as I had the screen shot from DESE’s website laying in hands.  She started to get up, I grabbed my phone and the stranger next to me and said “let’s go”.  I turned on the camera on the phone and we followed her.  I asked her very kindly if I could ask her some questions.  She barked at me and said she didn’t have time.  Again I very kindly said, no problem I would walk her out.  She asked who I was and who I’m with….she rolled her eyes.  I persisted and asked her to explain her comments before and the contradictory screen shot I was holding in my hand.  She mumbled something and then slapped the paper out of my hand.  Then turned to the girl holding my camera phone and slapped the phone too.  But the camera girl caught the phone before it hit the ground.  She walked quickly away and I said “Thank you”…didn’t really know what to say…..

I was shocked and a little startled that she retaliated in that way.  I really thought with her position and caliber of being a professional educator she would conduct herself in a manner of integrity and grace.  Boy, was I wrong….it was Slapfest–Hissyfit 2013 in the basement of the Capitol building.  But what should I expect from someone telling untruths and then being confronted on them.  If she was telling the truth wouldn’t she have just told me I was incorrect and to check again.

They bummer part is my battery on my phone died and we only got half of the quick walk to the garage.  My camera girl and I are the witnesses to the slap fit Ms. Nicastro had but it reminds me that people trying to hide something usually act out like children.

Needless to say I didn’t get a statement regarding the unaccounted for $130 million dollars.  But I will be following up on that story.

So what are your thoughts?  Do you think it was a reasonable or ridiculous behavior by an appointed government official?


  1. Completely ridiculous. She is the Commissioner of DESE and you are right on point that if she is telling the truth then there is no need for that behavior. She is hiding something and I for one do not appreciate her making us jump through hoops to get her to come out and hold meetings that should have been held years ago before our State was signed onto this. The truth will set you free and will sell itself. On a personal note to her and the DESE meetings they had on May 2nd: How dare you waste my time away from my children.

  2. I am not surprised that any conversation was one sided. The getting physical part is disturbing, as it should be, but also not surprising. I love this article! We stand steadfast looking for answers and this house of cards will fall. Thanks for being there for all of Missouri!

  3. Way to go Dottie! It is too bad you have to see ignorance like that just for asking a legitimate question!

  4. Wow, seriously had a slap fest in the Capitol over a simple question? No wonder she doesn't want to attend informational meetings, she may have a meltdown if she ever has to answer anything...Thank you for the play by play, sounds very unprofessional and very disturbing. Too bad you didn't report the attack. I'm sure if my 10 year old did that there would be police involved. It really sounds like she feel backed into a corner, could this be even worse than we fear?

  5. Ah the pesky hoi poloi. What are we going to do with 'em? You keep 'em entertained with a lot of tv, feed em till they're so fat they can't walk, but now they question how their kids will be educated? What's a member of the Ed.D. aristocracy to do? Maybe a little touch of the cat will put em down.

    All of the above in jest. However, the account is one more illustration of what I've noticed since I was a kid. The people with Ed.D.s think beyond reproach, beyond question, beyond authority. I have dealt with many Ph.D.s. I've seen few as arrogant as those ed school graduates who run our public schools. We really need a thorough housecleaning.

    Robert Schneider

  6. I still think the most brazen lie of the day was Barbara Reys testifying that Dr. Milgram DID validate and sign off on the CC math standards. Here is the validation committee’s final report with no signature from Dr. Milgram. http://www.corestandards.org/assets/CommonCoreReport_6.10.pdf Four other members of the validation committee also refused to sign off on the standards. Alfinio Flores, Sandra Stotsky, Samuel DeWitt and Dylan William. Reys also testified that that Fordham Institute had graded Missouri's math standards a D. She did not, however, reveal that she was the co-chair of the standards development committee which authored those Missouri K-12 Mathematics Learning Goals, the very ones she testified were only graded a D. Keep that D in mind when you realize she is the only person MO sent to be on the CC writing committee.

  7. I was also at this meeting. If I heard Mrs. Reys say "misinformation" one more time while she was testifying I thought I would puke. Anngie I was biting my tongue hoping one of the representatives would ask the question about Mrs. Reys being part of the Missouri math standards. I really wish we could bring a balance of Math standards back to Missouri. Inquiry based math is destined to destroy a generation.


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