Issues arose even before the MOA was signed, however, as Wyoming statutes puts the setting and revising of Wyoming’s State Standards solely under the Wyoming State Board of Education (SBE). The SBE possesses no authority to delegate that statutory duty to the Governor or the State Superintendent. Yet the MOA was signed by the Governor and the State Superintendent with no consultation of the SBE.
This last fact was a potential sticking point for Superintendent McBride and the Wyoming Department of Education (WDE) in the spring of 2009. According to a briefing memo provided by the WDE, authored by WDE staff members Alan Moore and Christine Steele, concerns were raised to the Governor over the lack of involvement by the SBE in the apparent three-week rush to sign the memorandum with the CCSSO: “The Wyoming State Board of Education has not been part of the discussion regarding this project. They are charged with reviewing and adopting the state Standards. Signing the MOA before they are involved may be problematic.”xxii
Problems arising from the Superintendent and Governor’s approval of the MOA and the SBE’s lack of involvement were never realized, however, and Wyoming’s compliance with the memorandum’s tight deadline and ridged adoption process continued through the summer of 2009.
In the SBE’s August 5, 2009, meeting, WDE staff updated the SBE on the standards revision process taking place and tied this process in with the Common Core State Standards for seemingly the first time publically. The Department established a timeline for adoption of these standards, beginning with Fine and Performing Arts, Foreign Language and Health. English Language Arts and Math, the two content standards covered by the Common Core standards, would not start being reviewed until April 2010 with a completion date set for January of 2012.xxiii
In the January 14, 2010, teleconference meeting of the SBE, Superintendent McBride briefed the board on the state’s Race to the Top application. McBride noted the award grant would be $162 million, with $81 million apportioned for school districts. He also stated that the WDE had applied for an $11 million data grant the previous December, and he asserted the state had an excellent chance of receiving both grants. xxiv Wyoming was in a race to receive large sums of federal dollars, which seemed to prompt the state into accelerating its own Common Core adoption timeline.
At the April 16, 2010, SBE board meeting, according to the meeting minutes, McBride stressed that Wyoming would “need to figure out how we can work with common core standards by 2015; otherwise, it could affect the federal dollars we receive.” xxv
On June 16, 2010, the SBE voted to approve the adoption of the Common Core state standards in what can only be interpreted as a premature vote to adopt standards that were not fully vetted across the state.
With that vote, the die was cast for the state to comply with the MOA and establish a farce of “reviewing” the standards over the next year. The vote ensured Wyoming would move forward with final adoption in 2011, despite the Board receiving (at the very same meeting) reviews from Wyoming content standard review teams as well as reviews by Wyoming teachers who participated in an online survey of the standards – both stressing areas of deep concern and a lot of unanswered questions such as:
“Still too many unknowns,”
“I would not accept the Common Core Standards as now written. Knowing there are changes coming, I would want to see them first before I could recommend the standards.”
“I think there are too many questions about them. I think the developmental questions that need to be answered to accept them as is.”
“Concept Development is not stressed enough.”
“I hate it that Language Arts has been reduced to a set of skills. Literature does so much more in connecting us with the world and each other. Some of the skills (theme) are not developmentally attainable even in 9th grade without guidance. OUR KIDS ARE MORE THAN TEST SCORES.”
“The research is not new from TIMSS [Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study] for years. We need to refine and streamline the curriculum and stop letting textbook companies dictate educational practices.”
“From what source did these standards come? What are the ESSENTIAL standards that all regularly placed students must meet in order to make academic progress? How do these proposed standards apply learning opportunities that meet the needs of the students AND provide the essential knowledge the students must achieve? I know that I was never contacted to engage in this composition process. Who was?”
“You have to be kidding me. These standards are so poorly written that adopting them would be a joke. Nothing in them supports research based learning for grade levels. They are vague, untestable, and show no understanding of brain based research. Wyoming would be better off to adopt the NCTM math standards and have something that actually has some thought behind them. (Not to mention that Pearson Publishing is a sponsor – they looking to take more Wyoming money on poorly developed tests?)” xxvi
Despite the board and the WDE continuing for the next year with an open comment period and meetings around the state to get public input, the timeline for adoption of the Common Core standards in Wyoming clearly show that the standards were adopted for compliance reasons and not in the interest of promoting quality education. In the process of adopting the standards, Wyoming did not compare the standards to other states high-quality standards. The idea of looking elsewhere for standards “fewer, clearer and higher” than those being pushed in the Common Core was never even entertained. Wyoming, like all of the other states, has had a half-century of learning how to swallow every federal hook, no questions asked.
In the second, final and identical vote by SBE at their September 23, 2011, meeting, the standards were approved with absolutely no changes made to the ELA and Mathematics content areas, which were copied and pasted verbatim from the original copyrighted Common Core State Standards into Wyoming’s final approved standards. xxvii Despite what has been billed by proponents of the Common Core as a lengthy and open three-year process where parents and teachers were afforded the opportunity to comment, not one single change was made to the Common Core Standards in ELA and Math. Not one.
Wyoming’s path to the Common Core is yet another loss for Wyoming’s families. Parents, students and teachers who participate in the educational system on a daily basis were simply not allowed to participate in the process in any meaningful way. The die had already been cast.