Mary Byrne Testimony to Common Core/Academic Standards

Posted: October 28, 2014 in Uncategorized

Following is the testimony given by Mary Byrne yesterday at the Common Core/Academic Standards hearing in Jefferson City:

Below is a copy of my testimony presented to the Missouri State Board of Education at yesterday’s public hearing regarding the progress of academic standards development by the work groups. My primary concern was the appearance of bias given by past actions of the State Board and the partnership of the National Association of State Board of Education with the corporations who stand to profit from the implementation of the Common Core State Standards Initiative. Below is the testimony I submitted.
Mary Byrne, Ed.D.
Springfield, MO
President Herschend, members of the board, I appeared before this State Board of Education in January of this year to ask that you reverse the board’s adoption of the Common Core State Standards because the process by which they were adopted was inconsistent with ethical and responsible governance (that is, governors, including Missouri’s governor, having signed a memorandum of agreement committing states to “. . . the development and adoption of a common core of state standards before they were written), and lacked the statutory authority to adopted privately owned, copyrighted materials as public policy. At that time, little was known about the National Association of State Boards of Education’s involvement in the agreement to cooperate with the Council of Chief State School Officers, the National Governors Association, and the U.S. Department of Education in promoting the Common Core State Standards Initiative; however, since January, additional information has been found that calls into question an apparent conflict of interest that inhibits the ability of this board to make unbiased decisions about academic standards developed by work groups constituted by HB 1490.
The following is evidence to support my concerns:
  • Page 3 of the Common Core Standards Memorandum of Agreement to develop and adopt a common core of state standards signed by Governor Nixon in June 2009 describes a National Policy Forum to include signatory organizations and names the National Association of State Boards of Education among them. It’s justified to assume that members of this board, though not all, were aware of the Governor’s agreement at that time.
  • Page C-0 of the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund Application (the grant program that provided four assurances to the U.S. Dept. of Education including the adoption of common standards and aligned assessments) shows the signature of Dr. Bert Schulte as the Chief State School Officer who is under the direction of the State Board of Education.
  • A 2010 990 filed by the National Association of State Boards of Education reads as follows:
     . . . in 2009 48 states and 3 territories agreed to participate in the process of creating a set of common core standards . . . they must adopt 100% of the common core k-12 standards in english language arts and mathematics and begin assessment on the common core state standards within three years . . .NASBE is an equal partner with the Council Of Chief State School Officers and National Governors Association on the Common Core Standards Initiative the three organizations are working closely together to facilitate the dialogue related to standards adoption and implementation the focus of this effort is to engage state boards of education, other governing bodies, . .  NASBE conducted four regional conferences from January-March of 2010 to give state boards an opportunity to gain an information infrastructure of materials and resources on the common core as well as prepare state boards for the policy and advocacy work that will be essential to a smooth approval process of the common core standards the conferences are funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. (italics added) The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation funds millions of dollars in grants in the state of Missouri.
  • In 2012, Missouri State Board of Education President Peter Herschend received the Distinguished Service Award from the NASBE.
  • Annual and Platinum Level Partners identified on the NASBE website ( include a list of corporations that benefit from contracts awarded to develop, administer, score, and report student performance on tests aligned to the new standards; sales of instructional material and personnel development programs to teach content associated with the grade level sequence of the standards; and provide interventions to schools associated with poor test results. Among these are Pearson, ETS, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, McGraw-Hill, ACT, College Board, WestEd, Wireless Generation and others. Missouri contracts with several of the above testing companies.
Although NASBE’s “Public Education Positions for 2014 states, “The adoption of any common standards by individual states must not be a condition for the receipt of federal aid.” That point was disregarded from the outset of the standards adoption process. Further, the association of the Missouri State Board of Education with the National Association of State Boards of Education and its partners, as well as the relationship of the board with the governor, is a concern in its ability to evaluate the standards developed by the academic workgroups of Missouri’s education professionals and teachers. Please be reminded that your first duty is to uphold the compact Missouri has with its citizens, that is, Missouri’s constitution; and that Article IX of our constitution promises, public education is for, “A general diffusion of knowledge and intelligence being essential to the preservation of the rights and liberties of the people,” [that is, a liberal arts education as envisioned by our founders; not workforce development envisioned by Washington DC-based trade organizations and their partners] for the gratuitous instruction of all persons in this state . . .”


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