John Austin and MDE disagree on whether MI can change standards

In the third hearing,  State School Board President John Austin said that the state board had “absolutely” the right to change the standards.

Brian Smith repeated it in his follow-up story, Common Core hearings last 6 Hours as educatiors, public speak.

“The issue of changes to the standards came up later in the hearing, when State Board of Education President John C. Austin and board member Richard Zeile were testifying. Austin said in response to a question from Rep. Sam Singh (D-East Lansing) that the state “absolutely” had the authority to change the standards, a remark which drew audible laughter from McMillin.

McMillin was laughing because he knows that either  Austin is very confused or lying.  McMillin received an 11-page letter from the Michigan Department of Education  04-22-13 response to Rep McMillin-1 which discusses the issue,

1.  What is the mechanism for the State of Michigan to change a Common Core Standard? Note: This is not a reference to adding 15% to the standards, but changing a standard we disagree with.

That opportunity existed prior to the adoption of the standards.  Through numerous opportunities for public input and a final review required by the State Board of Education prior to consideration for adoption, the Department and the State Board of Education were satisfied that the standards needed no changes.

As has been the case with all sets of content standards, the Common Core Standards will be updated periodically. The National Governor’s Association and Council of Chief State School Officers have made a commitment to keep this process state led, with no involvement from the federal government. When the Standards are revised, Michigan will have numerous opportunities for State Education Agency (MDE) and public comment to advocate for changes in any standards we disagree with.

The state acting as an  “advocate for changes in any standard” is NOT the same as the state having “absolutely” the authority to make the changes as Austin indicated in his testimony.    The same appears to be true of the Smart Balanced assessment.

  1. What is the mechanism for the State of Michigan to change a question on the Smarter Balanced assessment?

Michigan will have multiple opportunities to contribute to the development of test questions throughout the item development and review process. Michigan can ask to have test items reviewed and removed if necessary, so that it does not appear during future test events.

If Michigan has “absolutely” then authority then why do we have to “ask” to have test items reviewed and removed?   And WHO do we ask?

I am an advocate against the Common Core but that does not mean I have the authority to halt it.   I can ask the lawmakers to make changes so that Michigan will never fund or implement Common Core but they don’t have to listen to me.   The final decision is lawmakers.  I am an advocate but they have the authority.  Big difference!

When we adopted the Common Core, Michigan abandoned our authority position in favor of an advocacy position.  As a result, our control over the Michigan standards is greatly diminished.

The obvious question we must ask is, “If Michigan is NOT the authority WHO is?”  The short answer is we don’t know.  Here’s how the Common Core answers it on their website,

Who will manage the Common Core State Standards Initiative in the future?

The Common Core State Standards Initiative was and will remain a state-led effort. In addition to supporting effective implementation of the Common Core State Standards, NGA and CCSSO are committed to developing a long-term sustainability structure with leadership from governors, chief state school officers, and other state policymakers. There will be an ongoing state-led development process that can support continuous improvement of the standards.

If this is a “state-led” effort and Michigan has “absolutely” the authority to change the standards, why is a long-term sustainability structure needed?   Shouldn’t the Michigan Department of Education and John Austin  know who to “ask” before we adopt the Common Core?   It’s been three years since Michigan adopted the Common Core   It’s time the MDE, Austin, and the rest of the advocates for Common Core to get their story straight and tell us WHO is in charge of Common Core and whether MI can change them without penalty.

(Note:  Official video of the hearing is not available due to a technical difficulty.    Stop Common Core has uploaded the hearing here.)