(This is the last in a series of articles on Common Core.)
Common Core has been a controversial issue since Missouri adopted the standards in 2010.
Opponents to Common Core have sprung up in many states, including Missouri. The Missouri Coalition Against Common Core formed in 2013 in response to the State Board of Education’s adoption of the policy, which the group considers to be federal intrusion. In the Missouri General Assembly, some legislators are proposing bills that would prevent Missouri or its school districts from implementing Common Core.
Among supporters, the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education posted a tweet saying 75 percent of math, English language arts, science and social studies teachers in Missouri like Common Core and say that school districts have control of what they teach in a classroom.
The negative reception
According to MCACC’s website, Common Core is a thinly veiled initiative funded by special interests and the federal government.
The group’s stated goals are to 1) Take control out of Washington, D.C., and private corporations hands, and return it to local communities; 2) Protect children’s privacy by restricting government’s ability to collect and share information about them.
President Barack Obama’s Race To The Top education initiative incentivizes U.S. states to adopt Common Core standards by rewarding them with grant money, according to MCACC’s website. RTTT is a multibillion dollar grant program created by the U.S. Department of Education to spur “coherent, compelling and comprehensive” reforms in state and local district K-12 education, such as complying with Common Core standards. RTTT’s executive summary lists one of the goals for the grant incentive as, “Adopting standards and assessments that prepare students to succeed in college and the workplace and to compete in the global economy.”
“It's time to stop just talking about education reform and start actually doing it. It's time to make education America's national mission,” President Obama said in 2009. On Tuesday, the president announced a national budget proposal that requests a 2 percent increase – or $1.3 billion – in U.S. Department of Education funding. A portion of that increase also includes $300 million for a new RTTT competition, $70 million to expand state data collection systems and to implement a universal preschool program for all 4-year-olds, according to U.S. News and World Report.
Although Missouri hasn’t been recently rewarded RTTT grants, MCACC says the latest round of grant funding goes directly to school districts, skipping the state level.
MCACC also disputes the assertion that school districts still have the autonomy to devise their own curricula and programs, calling that “a blatant lie.” It says CC institutes frequent assessments to ensure K-12 students are meeting its expectations. In order for a district to assess students, it pays outside vendors to provide testing materials, which are mainly electronic. In January, DESE Commissioner Chris Nicastro told a Missouri House subcommittee that implementing Common Core has not cost additional money, but evaluating student progress under it will, according to Mid-Missouri Public Radio.
Legislative push-back is occurring in several states, including Missouri. A Missouri House committee has advanced legislation that would block the state or school districts from implementing Common Core standards unless the Legislature passes a bill to adopt them. House Bill No. 1490 is sponsored by State Rep. Kurt Bahr, a Republican who represents part of St. Charles County. It says the new standards take important decisions away from local school boards. That bill is still in committee consideration.
Primary Sources, a project of Scholastic publishing and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, conducted an online survey in July 2013 with 406 teachers in Missouri and said 75 percent of them are enthusiastic about Common Core being implemented in their classrooms. The Gates Foundation was a major financial supporter of Common Core in 2013, which provided grants for institutions and organizations that support the unified standards.
“They (Common Core standards) don’t mandate how or what to teach,” writes DESE on www.missourilearningstandards.com. The CC standards are included within the Missouri State Standards. Standards are expectations of what a student should know at a specific grade level and that consists of both CC and state standards in Missouri.
DESE conducted a survey last year as well that was completed by approximately 6,000 teachers and administrators. It revealed that 70 percent of respondents have implemented Common Core standards.
According to the survey, 75 percent of 5,616 questioned said there is either a person or committee leading CC efforts in their school or district.
DESE asserts that district or school curricula are simply what students do in the classroom on a day, week or monthly basis, and that they are strictly a local decision made by teachers, administrators or school boards.
“This (Common Core) has been going on for years among education professionals and a lot of hands have been at work in trying to design higher standards for our children..” said State Rep. Vicki Englund, D-St. Louis, in a 2013 interview with The Missouri Times. “This isn’t something Congress just came up with or some shadowy organization drew up or something that President Obama just drummed up one day.”
But what about the student performance data collected by Missouri schools and districts to evaluate if they’re meeting learning expectations?
“We won’t be collecting any more data than we previously did with the Common Core Standards or the assessments,” DESE spokesperson Sarah Potter said in a 2013 interview with The Missouri Times. “It’ll be exactly what we’ve always collected and all the data we collect is on our website for parents to see.”