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Parent-Teacher Workgroups Steamrolled by DESE Agenda

Sep 23, 2014

JEFFERSON CITY – Parents and the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) came to blows as they began work on the development of Missouri’s standards for the public schools across the state as part of HB 1490 signed into law by Governor Jay Nixon in July of this year.

HB 1490 was supported by parents and citizens from across the state because the intent was to allow parents and teachers to work together to develop Missouri’s educational standards. Throughout the process of lobbying for HB 1490, parents and citizens sought to redress much of the Common Core Standards adopted by the Governor in June of 2009.

Regardless of the intent of HB 1490 to allow the groups involved to work together, that is not what happened on Monday when workgroups convened according to those attending including  Jill Carter, Toni Becker and Tonya Long.

The three women, appointed by House Speaker Tim Jones, informed SEMO TIMES that workgroups were greeted by binders containing the Common Core Standards and DESE-centric facilitators whose message towed the Department of Education line. Facilitators went so far as to make it clear to all workgroups that they were there to “review” the existing Common Core/Missouri Learning Standards already in place. HB 1490’s mandate to develop the standards with parents and teachers had been aborted by DESE who treated the meetings as strictly a formality.

Things turned from controversial to juvenile according to Toni Becker, a Secondary Science Workgroup member. Becker said “the facilitator brought out a ball and began to throw it to members of the group. A question was asked and the ball signaled the participant’s turn to answer the question posed,” said Becker.

Tonya Long, a member of the Elementary History/Government Standards Workgroup, said she was caught off guard when consensus was sought with a thumbs up and thumbs down approach among all adults when deciding whether or not a subject was to be discussed further. “It was strange to see a room full of very competent adults with their thumbs up in a meeting of such magnitude. We needed meaningful discussion, not silly games.”

Missouri parents and teachers have volunteered to have a meaningful role in the development of the standards that will shape the future of Missouri’s educational system, however DESE appears to have used day one of the meetings to press their Common Core agenda.

As more members are added in coming weeks and work continues on Missouri’s standards for education, it remains to be seen whether the mandates of HB 1490 will be carried out as legislated or if DESE steamrolls their common core agenda over the workgroup sessions.