MDE Info Sessions Leave Many Questions Unanswered

| October 9, 2015 | Reply

The Michigan Department of Education (MDE) has completed its series of information sessions on the proposed new science and social studies standards.  However, the sessions have left parents and educators with more questions than answers.

  1.  What is the cost of the adopting and implementing the new standards for the state and local districts?  The MDE official offered no concrete dollar amounts and seemed to believe they will just request money as a budget item after adoption by the State Board of Education (SBE).  The Michigan Constitution requires the SBE to advise the legislature as to the financial requirements for their decisions.   A financial forecast of the dollar amounts required to implement such a large revision should be known and considered BEFORE adoption.  Districts are still suffering under the costs of adopting the Common Core.  The financial burden to them will be huge if two more sets of standard are imposed upon them.
  2. Who owns the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) we are adopting?
    The MDE representative at the Plymouth information session clearly did not know who owned or controlled the standards.  At various times it was stated that Michigan owns them, they are “open” standards under a creative common license and not owned by anyone, or that Achieve may own or control them. The NGSS website page on trademark and copyright is not clear on ownership but it appears that Achieve does have some authority over the use of the NGSS trademark.

    “The Next Generation Science Standards (“NGSS”) were developed by twenty-six states, in collaboration with partners (see (the “Lead States and Partners”) in a process managed by Achieve, Inc. (“Achieve”). On behalf of the Lead States and Partners, Achieve requires that all third parties using and/or referring to the NGSS trademarks do so in a manner which will minimize confusion among the public and refrain from falsely implying a relationship with the NGSS Lead States and Partners or with Achieve. The NGSS trademarks include the words NEXT GENERATION SCIENCE STANDARDS and the associated logo (shown above).”

    If Michigan is adopting the NGSS as part of our Michigan science standards then clarity on ownership and what we are allowed to modify is essential especially regarding how the content of the standards is linked to common data codes.

  3. Can data codes be modified and who has the authority to change them?

    Each standard strand or performance expectation has an associated data code derived from the NGSS or C3 Framework.  In the science break-out session I asked if the codes were Michigan codes or NGSS codes.  With the exception of a a few Michigan specific strands, the codes were identical to the codes for the NGSS.  I was told the codes could NOT be changed by Michigan which by inference means we cannot change the content of the performance expectation.  But that does NOT mean they could NOT be modified by whoever controls the standards.  That entity could change Michigan standards without our approval.  Further, if Michigan wanted to change a standard at any time where state officials would go to to get approval or to make the change is not clear.

    Data codes are integral to the process of micro-credentialing and the STEM (or other career) pathway credential.  Without Michigan controlled data codes our credentials are determined by anonymous unelected officials outside the state.

    Digital coding is also integral to the Social Studies standards where digital badges are also being created.   The same concerns related to the the NGSS can be applied to the Social Studies.

    The answers was provided were insufficient. The MDE said that once adopted they don’t expect any changes for ten years. That’s not good enough when there is no available evidence that the standards will even work.

  4.   Where is the evidence that this will work in Michigan?
    In the information session on science to explain performance expectations, the presenter shared details of an experiment performed by a fifth grader measuring the heart rate of tadpoles living in water treated with pain relievers.  A slide from the student’s showed 10 trials repeated to collect evidence to support her ideas.  I asked the presenter where we can find 10 similar trails to test the ideas in the proposed science standards.  He said there really isn’t any because you don’t test standards.That’s not exactly accurate. Joe Krajcik, Director at the Create for STEM Institute and faculty member in science education at Michigan State University explains in an email to a member of the Stop Common Core in Michigan,

    “As you might know, it takes several years for studies to get conducted and then resulting manuscript to get published.  For instance, I receive a grant 4 years based on the Framework for K – 12 Science Education from which the NGSS is based.  We wrote the grant the previous year.  We are now collecting data based upon that work, but we won’t have anything published for another year of two.  That is how research works.”

    Waiting a year or two for evidence may be inconvenient but getting it wrong is far worse.    It’s important to get this right. 

  5.  What is the process for legislative review?
    The handout for the proposed standards indicates that the “next steps, upon legislative review and adoption, include inital stages of an implementation plan…”   Which legislative body and/or committee will handle the review?  Will there be public hearings?  Will there be a vote?  There is already a bill in the Michigan House introduced by Representative Hooker which prohibits the adoption of NGSS (HB 4144) which indicates that not everyone in the legislature supports adopting the standards.

The information sessions conducted by the MDE required that the audience choose either the presentation on social studies or science.  I attended the science.  Others on the Stop Common Core in Michigan team attended the social studies and we will update in another post the questions and concerns from that information session when they become available.

The State Board of Education may adopt the standards as early as their November meeting.  Please forward this post, add any more questions to them, and demand answers BEFORE the vote. 

  Superintendent Whiston:
·         State Board Members:
o   Mr. John Austin –
o   Ms. Michelle Fecteau –
o   Ms. Lupe Ramos-Montigny –
o   Dr. Pamela Pugh –
o   Mrs. Kathleen Straus
o   Dr. Casandra Ulbrich
o   Mrs. Eileen Weiser –
o   Dr. Richard Zeile –


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About the Author ()

Karen Braun is a writer and conference speaker on issues related education and family life. Her work has appeared in the American Thinker, Crosswalk, The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, WatchDog Wire, and various other websites and magazines. She has also appeared on TV and radio venues. Along with blogging, Karen also enjoys homeschooling, running marathons, and spending time with her husband, their six children, and two grand children. For more information please contact Karen at spunkyhomeschool at gmail dot com