Where are the Common Core MOUs? – Part 2


by Eric Holcombe


In my previous post, I showed you the State Dept. of Education has admitted that the federal government-provided Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) claimed to be signed by all the Tennessee public school districts (directors of schools as well as local school board chairs and union representatives when applicable) in the Race To The Top (RTTT) application for millions in federal taxpayer funds simply “do not exist”.

The state Dept. of Education lied on the RTTT application for federal millions. The picture above is the information that I was given when I requested the federal MOU signature pages. These are different, state-generated MOUs, not the federal government-provided one claimed to have been signed by all the districts in the RTTT application. In addition, none of them are signed prior to the RTTT application date of January 18, 2010. At the time of this writing, the state is still maintaining copies of these MOUs along with the attached “scope of work” for each district here. As a follow-up to this delivery of paper MOUs, I sent a second request with four questions, which resulted in only the first one being answered essentially admitting the state lied about the unanimous support of the federal MOU. The other questions were not answered. They were as follows:


“2. If not, did the local chairs of boards of education and/or the local union representative in these districts sign another MOU such as the altered one signed by the directors of schools that have been provided to me?

3. Were there any other MOUs related to RTTT requirements signed by these three parties (directors of schools, chairs of local school boards, union representatives) that are dated prior to the RTTT application date of January 18, 2010?

4. Who wrote this portion of the RTTT application quoted above regarding the “sign on” rate of the school districts to the sample MOU? Education First?”


I now have the answer to questions 2 and 3. In that big stack of paper the State Dept. of Education provided, there are four school districts missing. There is something curious about all four of these districts that I believe made the State Dept. of Education decide to delete them from my request:


They have different MOUs from the rest. They also are signed in December of 2009 – before the first “confidential” draft of the Common Core “state” Standards even existed (January 13, 2010).


Here are the districts:


Jackson County, Jackson-Madison County, Sullivan County and West TN School for the Deaf. A fifth district was partially withheld: Marshall County. Marshall County has two MOUs, one signed in December 2009 and another different version signed in June 2010. The State Dept. of Education chose to only give me the later version in their response. At the time of this writing, the state RTTT website still shows the 2009 dated MOU for all these districts.


Note the language on this 2009 MOU, especially under “Assurances”. This MOU is more similar to the federal version language and has the four signature blocks. The district leadership had to “assure” that their LEA certifies and represents they were familiar with the still-under-construction 1100-page RTTT application and were “committed to working on all or significant portions of the State Plan”. They were asked to sign this MOU agreement while the application was still in the works.The “confidential” first rough draft of the Common Core “state” Standards didn’t exist yet and wouldn’t exist in any form the state could review until just five days prior to the RTTT application being submitted to the federal government.

A couple of items of interest:


  1. Jackson-Madison County. Note that the TEA representative Janis Carroll added an attachment to her signed agreement to the MOU assuring implementation of RTTT application requirements (before they existed). She appears to have signed under protest and notes her signature is made “with reservations” (page 12) and refers to an attachment (page 14). You can get an impression from the concerns listed there that probably all of the districts were facing the same uninformed concerns, most notably her first one:Our members have not seen the Race To The Top application or its requirements.Remember, this is signed on December 15 2009. Makes all those rubber-stamp letters of endorsement dated about the same time look even more ridiculous, because you know they couldn’t and didn’t read the application either. And of course, Common Core doesn’t exist yet in its first “confidential” draft for anyone to review.
  2. This December 2009 MOU refers to a different “Preliminary Scope of Work” attached as Exhibit 1 (page 13) and is more vague than the later versions. This earlier attachment is only found in four of the five districts.
  3. Marshall County shows both a December 2009 signed by all three parties and a June 2010 MOU signed only by the director of schools typical of the other districts. Both versions of the “scope of work” are present also. It is interesting to see how this language changed pre to post RTTT application.
  4. The Jackson County file includes instructions they were sent for completing the scope of work forms and a state Race To The Top timeline. Note that this timeline begins in March 2010 after award of the federal taxpayer money. There will be another post coming on these instructions and timeline. This isn’t the first version of them.

We now have established:

A) The State of Tennessee lied on the RTTT federal grant application about the signed agreement of the local school district directors, school board chairs and TEA representatives to the requirements of RTTT including the concealed implementation of the Common Core “state” Standards and greatly increased data mining of students.

B) There was in fact effort by the State Dept. of Education to strong arm districts into committing to the requirements of the RTTT application including the Common Core “state” Standards concealed within before the first “confidential” draft of those standards even existed. This is evidenced by the five districts having signed the MOUs in December 2009. This was done when at least one district (Jackson – Madison County) did not even have the application to review.

C) The State Dept. of Education doesn’t want us to know about A or B and attempted to hide the early MOUs from me. Unless of course you believe it is just coincidence that only these four districts (and half of Marshall County) were missing from their response. They also declined to answer if any MOUs were signed by districts prior to the RTTT application date of January 18, 2010. Obviously, there were some. For the RTTT application to be legal, there should be one for every district and it would have to be the federal version MOU.

More to come…



4 thoughts on “Where are the Common Core MOUs? – Part 2

  1. You might want to contact me. I have been researching this subject day and night for 4 years now. I had already done an Open Records Request for the MOUs. I also have all the info that was put into the Haslam review system. And I currently have an ORR for the validity and reliability testing perform on our new assessments. So far I have gotten a response but no reports and we both know where this is going. Please contact me. Karen Bracken

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