THE BLOG
06/23/2014 12:50 pm ET Updated Aug 23, 2014

Common Core Memorandum of Understanding Not Just for 'Development'

On June 18, 2014, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal announced that he had contacted the National Governors Association (NGA) and Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) to tell them that he was terminating Louisiana's Common Core State Standards (CCSS) memorandum of understanding (MOU), the document that he and former state superintendent Paul Pastorek signed tying Louisiana to CCSS.

A spokesperson for CCSSO said that the CCSS MOU was only related to developing CCSS:

Jindal wrote to the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governor's Association notifying them that Louisiana is dropping out of Common Core. He sent a similar letter to Mitchell Chester, director of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, that the state is dropping the test.

PARCC did not respond to a request for a response to Jindal's letter, but a spokesman for the CCSSO says that agency and the NGA's only affiliation with Common Core was to assemble states in signing a memorandum of understanding to develop the standards. The NGA referred any questions to Jindal's office.

"From what I understand, he's writing the letter to get out of that MOU," said Melissa McGrath of CCSSO. "That ended in 2010. That initiative was only related to the development of standards..." [Emphasis added.]

That the CCSS MOU was "only for CCSS development" contradicts the language of the CCSS MOU. Here is the opening paragraph of the CCSS MOU (see p. 128):

Purpose: This document commits states to a state-led process that will draw on evidence and lead to development and adoption of a common core of state standards (common core) in English language arts and mathematics for grades K-12. These standards will be aligned with college and work expectations, include rigorous content and skills, and be internationally benchmarked. The intent is that these standards will be aligned to state assessment and classroom practice. The second phase of this initiative will be the development of common assessments aligned to the core standards developed through this process. [Emphasis added.]

Thus, from the outset of the CCSS MOU, the intent to develop and adopt CCSS and connect CCSS curriculum and CCSS assessments is made clear.

The MOU continues:

...With the adoption of this common core, participating states will be able to

-Articulate to parents, teachers, and the general public expectations for students;

-Align textbooks, digital media, and curricula to the internationally benchmarked standards;

-Ensure professional development to educators based on identified need and best practice;

-Develop and implement an assessment system to measure student performance against the common core, and

-Evaluate policy changes needed to help students and educators meet the common core standards and "end-of-high-school" expectations.

So, according to the CCSS MOU, a governor's and state superintendent's signature is a commitment to the entire CCSS process, from development and adoption of CCSS, to aligning curriculum, professional development, and CCSS-based assessments.

In canceling the CCSS MOU, Jindal canceled adherence to the CCSS process as a whole.

But there is more to the CCSS MOU that Jindal canceled. Consider the detailed section prescribing CCSS adoption:

Adoption. The goal of this effort is to develop a true common core of state standards that are internationally benchmarked. Each state adopting the common core directly or by fully aligning its state standards may do so in accordance with current state timelines for standards adoption not to exceed three (3) years.

This effort is voluntary for states, and it is fully intended that states adopting the common core may choose to include additional state standards beyond the common core. States that choose to align their standards to the common core standards agree to ensure that the common core represents at least 85 percent of the state's standards in English language arts and mathematics.

Further, the goal is to develop an ongoing development process that can support continuous improvement of this first version of the common core based on research and evidence-based learning and can support the development of assessments that are aligned to the common core across the states, for accountability and other appropriate purposes. [Emphasis added.]

The CCSS MOU once again makes it clear that governors and state superintendents signing agree not only to CCSS adoption, but adoption within three years- with the 2014-15 school year being the deadline to implement CCSS assessments.

Thus, "full adoption" of CCSS entails CCSS assessment implementation by the 2014-15 school year. The NGA makes it clear that CCSS implementation was meant to end with consortia-developed, CCSS common assessments.

In terminating the CCSS MOU, Jindal terminated the agreement to adhere to use of CCSS consortia-developed tests.

In its section on adoption, the CCSS MOU also notes that states agree to not alter CCSS; they may add what amounts to 15 percent to it, but they "may not" remove content from CCSS. According to the CCSS MOU, any revisions of CCSS are to be overseen by the NGA and CCSSO.

In terminating the CCSS MOU, Jindal released Louisiana from the agreement to adhere to the "15 percent rule" as well as dependence upon NGA and CCSSO for further revision of CCSS- NGA's and CCSSO's right as the owners of the CCSS license.

In signing the MOU in the first place, Jindal and Pastorek signed, "The undersigned state leaders agree to the process and structure as described above and attest accordingly by our signature(s) below."

As the only one of the two signators still in office, Jindal canceled the CCSS MOU, with its stipulations for not only CCSS development, but agreement to align the entire Louisiana education enterprise to CCSS, including assessments; agreement to using CCSS assessments developed by a consortium; agreeing that Louisiana would depend upon NGA and CCSSO for any word on CCSS revision, and agreement that CCSS would represent 85 percent of the ELA and math standards taught in Louisiana's classrooms.

So. What about the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education's (BESE) adoption of CCSS in July 2010?

As per the July 01, 2010 BESE meeting minutes, BESE approved adoption of CCSS:

9-J-3 On motion of Mr. Bayard, seconded by Ms. Dastugue, the Board approved
the adoption of the Common Core State Standards in English and Math.

Given that Jindal canceled the CCSS MOU, what does this mean for Louisiana schools and CCSS?

Well, adherence to the CCSS MOU tied Louisiana to a process much larger than only the CCSS standards alone. In adopting CCSS, BESE adopted the standards. They did not adopt CCSS assessments; they did not agree to consortia-created CCSS assessments; they did not agree to align curriculum to form a bridge between CCSS standards and CCSS, consortia-developed assessments meant for comparing states.

In adopting CCSS standards in 2010, BESE did not agree to not alter CCSS in the future, and BESE did not agree to wait for NGA and CCSSO to declare it "is time" for all CCSS MOU-signing states to agree to any CCSS alteration as per NGA and CCSSO.

However, in adopting CCSS standards, BESE might encounter future pressure from NGA and CCSSO since the license for CCSS belongs to them, and in it, NGA and CCSSO state that they are not to be held accountable to any consequences of a state's adopting CCSS but that they reserve the right to alter the terms of the CCSS license at any time.

For the time being, in wrongly declaring that the CCSS MOU was only about CCSS development, it seems that CCSSO at least wants to stay out of the Jindal-White/Roemer showdown.

In terminating the CCSS MOU, Jindal killed the process that CCSS was intended to be.

Right now, BESE has CCSS standards approved, but they are in isolation from the CCSS MOU process previously endorsed by Jindal.

So, Jindal's cancellation of the CCSS MOU effectively amputated the CCSS limbs.

BESE only has a CCSS torso at this point.

On June 18, 2014, Jindal suspended funding for the CCSS-related test, PARCC; he initiated investigation into PARCC via the Office of Contractual Renewal (OCR), which discovered that the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) has no direct contract with PARCC.

And John White and LDOE are under investigation for their procurement of assessment contracts, which is in the governor's rights to initiate.

Jindal suspended funding for PARCC pending investigation, and neither Roemer nor White can change that.

Pending investigation, Jindal declared that PARCC will not be used in 2014-15. And he declared that Louisiana assessment contracts cannot be awarded to consortia.

BESE has nothing on the books awarding PARCC a contract; LDOE has no PARCC contract. What it has is a patched duct-taped attempt to subcontract.

John White is being investigated on one of his many schemes. It's about time.

Do not underestimate the meaning of Jindal's initiating an audit of John White and PARCC. One audit can lead to another. It has already. Since White produced a rigged PARCC contract, OCR Director Pamela Barfay Rice has called for an expanded investigation into LDOE testing contracts.

White is a house of cards. One audit will reveal the mess that anyone who is familiar with White knows is there, and more. Jindal must know this; he is calm before the cameras in discussing White/LDOE/BESE. On June 18, he stated that he didn't want to "demonize" anybody. However, Roemer and White cannot stall the governor's executive order to investigate PARCC, especially since it is now revealed that the PARCC contract is rigged. Sure, Roemer can assert that Jindal is overstepping, but that will not change the fact that LDOE did not comply with state law and competitively bid for a PARCC contract, win said contract, and formally seal the deal with a document between PARCC and LDOE, one that has been formally approved in BESE minutes.

And what about BESE board allegiances?

Again, do not underestimate the power of investigation into White and LDOE PARCC contracting and where that will lead. BESE members have their own reputations and arrangements (whether "above board" or not) to consider.

At this point, BESE allegiance to Roemer, or White, or to the CCSS torso, is not a given.

Consider the seemingly clueless (yet more likely, stunned) response Jindal-appointed, pro-CCSS BESE member Connie Bradford gave in the June 22, 2014, Monroe News-Star:

The governor and John White have been in agreement on just about everything. This is just one of those hiccups.

Chicken bone lodged in the throat, Bradford.

Certainly not a "hiccup."

Originally posted 06-22-14 at deutsch29.wordpress.com