A Meramec Valley School District parent said she fears the impact that Common Core Standards could have on local students and their families.
Debbie Wiesma says she worries the standards take the curriculum out of the hands of teachers and that data collected in the program could be reported to the federal government.
Speaking at the Aug. 21 school board meeting, Wiesma offered to help the district craft a resolution opting out of the Common Core Standards program.
School board President Tim Richardson said the district will talk about Wiesma’s concerns at the September board meeting.
Common Core is a uniform set of achievement goals for K-12 students created by the National Governors Association in 2010.
Missouri is one of more than 40 states that have adopted the Common Core Standards.
The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) describes Common Core Standards — or Missouri Learning Standards — as defining the knowledge and skills students need to succeed in college and careers. The standards include a set of academic expectations for English language arts and mathematics.
Missouri was one of the governing states that helped create the Common Core Standards, according to Assistant Superintendent Terri Parks, who directs curriculum for the district.
The district aligns curriculum and teacher training with the program, Parks said.
Educators and proponents who favor national standards stress that Common Core is not a curriculum, but is a set of goals for all students and educators to work toward.
Superintendent Randy George said Common Core Standards provide a consistent understanding of what students are expected to learn so teachers and parents know what they need to help them.
“We maintain local control of the curriculum that helps our students reach the goals set by Common Core Standards,” George explained. “We do that with a curriculum committee and textbook committee made of teachers and administrators. Our goal is to make our kids competitive with kids in the same grade level across the nation.”
But some people who oppose Common Core worry that the program goes beyond local curriculum and can lead to more federal involvement in the local district.
Wiesma said Common Core Standards are copyrighted and unconstitutional because they take curriculum out of the hands of the teacher and call for collecting too much information about students and families.
Wiesma told school board members that she worries that family information collected on individual students could find its way into the federal government.
School board members did not respond to Woersma’s comments, but Richardson later told The Missourian that he declined to open the topic for discussion because only four school board members were present.
Board members Chris Arnette, Mike Butler and Mike Wells were at the meeting.
“I’ll ask to have this discussed at the next board meeting as an agenda item,” Richardson said. “We certainly believe Ms. Wiesma has a right to bring her concerns to us and deserves a candid discussion by the board.”
George and Parks said they were somewhat baffled by Woersma’s comments. They said she had brought her concerns to the administrative office and they thought they had assured her that her worries about teachers not being involved in curriculum and the possibility of the district reporting family data to the federal government were unfounded.
“Our district has absolute control of what is taught at Meramec Valley,” George said. “Teachers who serve on the curriculum and textbook committees help establish what we teach here. The Common Core Standard program doesn’t provide any curriculum.”
Parks said Woersma’s concern that some information about local families would be reported to the federal government also are unfounded. Wiesma mentioned family finances and religion.
“We gather information on family finances for the free and reduced lunch program, but we don’t report to any agency on the finances of any individual family,” Parks said.
George stressed that the free and reduced lunch program is funded by the federal government.
“The federal government knows how many students are receiving free and reduced cost lunches,” he said. “It’s their program. But we don’t send them any information on individual families.”
Parks also stressed the district does not gather any information about the religion of individual students.
“We don’t even ask anyone’s religion,” Parks said. “We don’t know what anyone’s religion is.”
Parks and George said they had met with Wiesma several times to try to allay her fears that Common Core Standards would not cause any harm Meramec Valley students.
Wiesma is not alone in voicing concerns about the national standards program.
One group of legislators put forward a bill designed to halt the program in Missouri, claiming that Common Core amounts to a federal takeover of schools, but the bill was not successful.
At least two groups have been formed in Missouri to oppose Common Core Standards.
One of their biggest worries is what happens to the state’s right to control education when the data that collected by the local schools is sent to the federal government as Common Core statistics.
Wiesma said local school districts have the option to opt out of the mandate and that is what she hopes Meramec Valley will do. If the district would want to opt out there are resolutions that they could use.
George said the district does not plan to opt out.
“As superintendent I would not recommend to the school board that we abandon Common Core Standards,” he said. “This program assures that our students are compared equally with students in their grade level all across the country.”