Mary Scott Hunter and Hugh McInnish Go Toe To Toe on Common Core Standards

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) - "Common Core education standards" -- words that generate plenty of controversy in Alabama these days.

The Common Core standards are in use in Alabama schools, but there are bills in the legislature that would allow individual school systems to "opt out" of Common Core, or even allow the state to "not" use the standards.

Our Leadership Perspectives interview this week features Common Core supporter --Republican State Board of Education member Mary Scott Hunter, and Common Core critic -- Madison County Republican activist Hugh McInnish.

The "No Child Left Behind Act" was proposed by President George W. Bush in 2001, and it became law in 2002.

Hunter explained the history of Common Core, saying, “Well, the Common Core standards are a set of standards that were promulgated by the National Governors Association, many of whom were Republican, and the chief state school officers. States could adopt them or not adopt them. Alabama reviewed them, laid them side by side with Alabama's previous standards, found them to very similar in content, but more rigorous and concise. Concepts are learned earlier, and mastered earlier. Concepts are repeated with more regularity, so it was decided and recommended to the board by our committee that reviewed these standards that we adopt these standards. So, Alabama's current standards are the Alabama College and Career ready standards, and those include the Common Core state standards. They also include Alabama specific content, and you can read them at the Alabama Department of Education website. They're online for review and unfortunately they've become controversial, because our standards, our Alabama College and Career ready standard, include the Common Core."

Madison County Republican Executive Committee member Hugh McInnish said about Common Core standards, "… Common Core as I see it is a blatant thrust to take more power away from our state and move it to Washington, and I think that is an awfully bad thing to do. Now, yes you've got this detail and that detail and we can argue about them, but in one sense they are moot.”

“Are we going to give up our control and cede our power to Washington? To me, that's what it is," added McInnish.

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In fact, a council of governors and educators across the country set up the Common Core standards. Though there are some incentives provided by the Obama administration for states that adopted the Common Core, there is no federal oversight of the Common Core standards.

"…The National Governors Association and Chief State School officers promulgated these standards, and you know it's an easy thing to shout fire in a crowded theater, and certainly none of us want Washington to be control and when you say these inflammatory statements like ‘Washington is in control,’ or the ‘Obama Administration is in control,’ or ‘the federal depart,’ those are extremely objectionable to many people including me,” said Hunter.

"That is not what's happening. Alabama is not accepting any dollars that are tied to the adoption of our standards. We don't have any, there is no federal, we actually recently changed them, Steve. We didn't call Washington to ask if we could change them. So it's a simple thing to say, Washington is in charge and you should throw them out, but when you dig into that, I've just not found any evidence of that," she added.

McInnish, however, disagreed with Hunter’s assessment of the situation.

"She is wrong when she says this. When you look at the documents from The Education Department and the Secretary of Education, through out there, he's threatening what he's going to do with the money and "No Child Left Behind" and so on if you don't do this and so in regard to the Common Core standards. It's all there. You can't say I'm against Washington taking over, but I am for Common Core standards. Those are in direct collision with each other," said McInnish.

Hunter was quick to point out Alabama is no longer a part of No Child Left Behind, adding that it was a very unpopular program. McInnish argued that was proof of “what happens when Washington takes over.”

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WHNT News 19's Steve Johnson said the way Common Core has been described to him by veteran educators is it's not so much knowing that three times three equals nine, but knowing why it's nine.

Hugh McInnish argued that this was a mistake, saying, "Now let me tell you, I have a master’s degree in mathematics from UAH. That doesn't qualify me as an education specialist, but to ask a lower grade student to understand the abstractions of mathematics is a mistake. Particularly, if they have not learned the facts. The problem is that students, some of them, cannot multiply, add and subtract, and that's what we need. Finally, if this abstract rigmarole is good, and I doubt it, we can inject it into our standards ourselves. We don't need the help of people up in Washington to do it.”

Mary Scott Hunter: "What's happening is with mathematics and math facts is what Caleb brought home is not three plus three is six, but he's asked to know, three plus what number equals six. That’s the difference and that starts to branch him into algebra, and there are perfectly capable of doing it."

McInnish asked Hunter why she didn’t use her role on the State School Board to implement that standard, if that was her goal.

"That's what we did. We took some really good standards and we brought them into our standards here in Alabama and we threw out the bad,” said Hunter.

"I mean it is nonsense, it is nonsense. And all of these details are moot," McInnish countered. "The basic question is, are we going to maintain our local control are or we going to cede it to Washington? You don't like Washington, I say it because it is ultimately a fact. I don't care about all this smoke and mirrors stuff. It’s going to Washington."

"The average parent does not do the research to find out where it comes from, Steve, but the whole point is, they care about the result. And under these Common Core standards, they're going to be dumbed down. We're going to lose control of it, and the result will not be good," McInnish added.

Mary Scott Hunter replied, "Well, Steve I am a parent with three children in public schools and I think parents care very deeply, and they do look to see what comes home in their children's back packs. And just this week as the standards were debated in our legislature, and I welcome this debate. We are talking about, we disagree, but what we're talking about what is important. We are having a robust discussion about education in our state, and that's a good thing. And many of the people that were walking the halls of the legislature this week, were parents. Parents who came because they care about the quality of their children’s education."


  • Teddi

    Mary, your argument that teaching things earlier is a good idea does not make sense. Just because it is taught earlier does not make them better. If I want my child to go up and down the stairs with alternating feet I have to wait until they have physically arrived at the point of being able to do it. Brain research tells me that it will happen and that my normal child will be able to do it around 3 or 4 years of age. I am not going to expect my child to do it before then. That would be pushing my child down the stairs. That would be abuse. We know that there are concepts that children can learn
    And understand at different points on a developmental continuum, just like going up a down stairs. Why would we ask them to do something they can’t yet do? Children hate school! Children are self mutilating! Children are crying daily. Children are telling us this has to stop!
    AND…. The NGA and the CCSSO are private trade organizations funded by Gates. They are not “state” organizations. They were asked to do this by the federal government so it would look state led. Do your HW.

  • davidshockey2013

    A lady displaying poise and wielding facts in her argument VS. angry curmudgeon whose sole argument is “Washington! Washington! Washington!” with no real facts to back him up.

    It’s a clear win for Mary Scott Hunter.

    • JA

      David, The person that should have been debating Mrs. Scott Hunter was not allowed to and was denied his request by Steve Johnson. If you want Facts all you have to do is look no further than the ESEA Flexibily Waiver and the signature on the bottom of the page signed by Arne Duncan.

      • David Shockey

        The reporter is interested in putting people on who will draw an audience. He is less interested in being fair to candidates.

        Like it or not, Hugh McInnish has put himself out there as the spokesman for the anti-Common Core movement. Having him on makes for good political theater, which draws an audience. If Mike Parsons wants to take Hugh McInnish’s place from him, he has a lot of work to do.

    • JA

      David, which “facts” were you referring to that Mrs. Scott Hunter was using or wielding? I would like to research and see if they are truly facts or if they are opinons. As you can tell with my other posts i like to speak with Facts and not opinions so i would like to do my due diligence and not take a politicians word for it. Mrs. Scott Hunter will tell you that ACCRS are Alabama’s standards and to some aspect that is a fact if you bend the truth a little bit but the 100% full fact is that ACCRS are truly ‘up to 15%’ of Alabama’s standards. The rest of the standards are copyrighted and cannot be touched. Trust me, our State and Local politicians have been coached on how to respond to these very questions and if you know all the facts they can’t get around them.

      • JA

        LOL @ David. Thanks for providing the Facts! “#sarcasm” For every one-side bogus website you can point me to i guarentee you i could match it 10 fold with just as many anti-common core sites. The FACT is if the State deviates from their 2020 plan which includes Common Core we will lose our ESEA Flexibility Waiver issued by the Government!

      • David Shockey

        So tell me where that article is wrong. I wrote that article and only posted a link to it rather than re-post the same information here.

        It presents the case that copyright does not mean what you claim it means and includes a direct quote by a spokesman of the copyright holder that says the states can change anything they want. Those are facts and you’ve not presented anything to refute them.

      • JA

        LOL @ David i just realized you sent me a link to your own website!!! HAHAHA That sure was a way to show me the “facts” HAHAHAHA I guess thats one way to get traffic onto your site if no one is visiting it! Here’s a fact for you and its taken off of the REAL common core website, “ANY USE OF THE COMMON CORE STATE STANDARDS OTHER THAN AS AUTHORIZED UNDER THIS LICENSE OR COPYRIGHT LAW IS PROHIBITED.” In other words David, you can’t change it.

  • JA

    This interview was a staged joke! It was very reminiscent of the Candy Crowley’s debate during our last presidential election. Nothing against Hugh, but the person with the opposing view point should have been the candidate running against Mrs. Scott Hunter in the election but Steve Johnson effectively censored him by not allowing him to participate, and that is a perfect example of the media controlling the argument to show support for common core. The FACT is until the State of Alabama can prove that they are not under the ESEA Flexibility waiver, signed by the Federal Government via Arne Duncan, then they will be under direct control of the Federal Government. If we diverge from the Copyrighted Common Core Standards in the state, regardless of what Mr. Steve Johnson thinks, Alabama we WILL lose our ESEA Flexibility Waiver. Common Core Standards are copyrighted and Alabama only has control of a measly ‘up to 15%’ flexibility above what the Common Core Standards require. The State of Alabama and the local districts are not in control of our children’s educational future! The Federal Government has spent $4.35 Billion dollars to promote the Common Core Standards, lifting caps on Charter Schools, and building data systems to track our children! The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), changed in 2012, gives schools the permission to release “any information” of a student under 9 conditions and one of them being the following “Organizations conducting certain studies for or on the behalf of the school”. And that is a Federal Act taken directly off of the US Department of Education’s website! With knowing that it is a perfect Segway into Mr. Steve Johnson’s question, “Do parents really care where the standards come from?” You bet i do! I care 100% where the standards come from because i have seen firsthand what is coming out of the schools and it’s a joke! Also, when Mrs. Scott Hunter mentioned the parents being in Montgomery walking the halls to talk to the legislators, I was one of them! WE were there Opposed to common core and fighting it, not there in support of it as she tried to use as an example. Our Senates Pro Tem, Del Marsh, co-sponsored the legislation (SB443) and then refused to bring it to the floor for a vote. Where have we seen that kind of grandstanding before???? Oh yea that is what Harry Reid does in the US Senate! Follow the Money!

  • Ann

    The Alabama College and Career Ready Standards (ACCRS) begin in kindergarten so they are not applicable for three and four year olds. However, if you feel as Mr. McInnish does that young children cannot learn these abstract concepts I ask you to look at this recent study completed by Johns Hopkins University that states that children that young can learn alegebra.

    While you may feel that the NGA and CCSSO are not state organizations, I ask you to remember that the ACCRS are our standards in Alabama. When the state school board did revisions recently, they did ask anyone in the federal government for permission to change them nor did they have to report the changes to anyone in the federal government. The argument that the standards are all about Washington control is a scare tactic.

    And for the record, my children who are both in Huntsville City Schools love school, are not self mutilating, are not crying daily, and are not telling us to stop.

    • JA

      Ann, When Alabama made the changes to the standards they were only allowed to touch ‘up to 15%’ of the standards they implemented above the common core standards. Alabama cannot touch the common core standards because they are copyrighted. Fact is that if Alabama diverges from the common core standards they will lose their ESEA Flexibility waiver that was granted by the Federal Government. So you can say its a scare tactic all you want but i challenge you to ask Mrs. Scott Hunter, as i have, What would happen if we repealed 100% of the copyrighted common core standards and just kept our 15% that we are allowed to by law? Ill give you a hint, We will lose our ESEA Flexibility waiver that was granted to us by the Federal Government. Now i ask you if Washington control is a scare tactic then why won’t the State just silence all of the critics and deploy our own Alabama Exceptional Standards?

    • JA

      Ann, When Alabama made the changes to the standards they were only allowed to touch ‘up to 15%’ of the standards they implemented above the common core standards. Alabama cannot touch the common core standards because they are copyrighted. Fact is that if Alabama diverges from the common core standards they will lose their ESEA Flexibility waiver that was granted by the Federal Government. So you can say its a scare tactic all you want but i challenge you to ask Mrs. Scott Hunter, as i have, What would happen if we repealed 100% of the copyrighted common core standards and just kept our portion of the Alabama standards? Ill give you a hint, We will lose our ESEA Flexibility waiver that was granted to us by the Federal Government. Now i ask you if Washington control is a scare tactic then why won’t the State just silence all of the critics and deploy our own Alabama Exceptional Standards? It’s simple, because they can’t!

      • David Shockey

        And what happens if we “lose our ESEA flexibility waiver”? Will the men in black suits come down from Washington to take over our schools? Will Bill Gates himself come to our classrooms to indoctrinate our children.

        None of those scary things will happen. The only thing that would happen in the unlikely event that our waiver was withdrawn is that we would fall back to the requirements of No Child Left Behind. The waiver releases our state from those requirements. That’s all. That would be unpleasant but not a horrible disaster.

      • JA

        @ David if it’s no big deal to lose the waiver then why havent we repealed common core and implemented our own “rigourous” Alabama Standards?

      • David Shockey

        The answer is simple. The state wants the federal dollars that come with complying with federal requirements. If the state turns down the money they don’t have to live by federal requirements. It is that simple.

      • JA

        Let’s be clear, there is a difference in not accepting the money and not being awarded the money from the Government. Alabama did not win any of the RTT funding but it wasnt for a lack of trying. They submitted in Phase 1 and Phase 2 so now they want to say that they didnt accep any money and that is a joke! The truth is they didnt accept the money becfuase they were not awarded any money! Are proposals came in 37th and 36th respectively. Again we ARE complying with Federal Requirements and that is why we have our ESEA Flexibility waiver and that further proves my point that we are being required to do what the Federal Government says we have to do.

      • David Shockey

        The RTT money is not what I’m talking about. That has nothing to do with federal requirements for Alabama.

        The state is taking federal money for education. If they stop taking that money then the requirements of NCLB and the subsequent waiver don’t mean anything. If we want total local control (or as much as the courts will allow) then we merely have to stop taking federal money. Then we just have to figure out how to make up the budget shortfall or how to spend less on education.

        In FY11 the federal portion of our state’s $6.5 billion education budget was about 21%. As long as we take that money there will be strings attached and that will be true whether or not we use common core standards. The fight over standards is a fight over a boogey man. If you really want to end federal control then fight to refuse the $1.3 billion that REALLY gives the federal government control. Few people will be willing to join in that fight because, well it’s a lot of “free” money. But for some odd reason they think that fighting a set of standards will make a difference. It won’t.

      • JA

        We’ll just have to agree to disagree then David. It was nice talking to you about the subject. My opinion is if Alabama wants 100% true Alabama Standards then they will have do the work necessary behind it, just like Virgina, and set the Standards without Common Core. I see it as Federal Intrusion just like the Affordable Care Act and I’m sure there is not a single thread of evidence that i can provide to you that will change your mind. I will say it was nice to have an intellectual conversion with someone about something i am very passionate about. Also, we are homeschooling our children and not a single penny of that Federal Money is funneled into my house since we no longer participate in a public education. So as for me and my house we have refused that money.

      • David Shockey

        “we are homeschooling our children”
        Common Core does not apply to private schools or homeschools.

      • David Shockey

        So if the standards were not copyrighted and we could “touch” more than 15% of the standards then you would put your kids back in public school?

  • Branko Pezdi

    Even setting aside Common Core’s dubious entanglement with all levels of government (or BECAUSE of this entanglement) does anyone seriously believe that the dismal academic performance of American government-schooled kids relative to the rest of the industrialized world will actually change for the better?

    Rhetorical question, of course. Liberals DO believe this, since it’s another government “solution” to a problem.

  • Terri Rector Michal

    Here’s something to think about….the architects of common core themselves have stated that the CC standards will prepare you for the lower level colleges….what about those students that excel..those students who may want to attend a higher level college? How will they be prepared? Another thing….is CC really making you prepared for ‘today’s workforce’ in an ‘international market’? Just read what one of the most desirable and globally minded employers says about who they hire. Google barely even looks at test scores and data…..and CC is very data driven. Our state is even coming up with a bubble test for fine arts for gods sake….

    • David Shockey

      How will they prepare? The same way they always have. The students who want to excel will work harder than their counterparts to master the subject and make good grades. If they are available, the students who want to excel will take honors or advanced placement classes. Some will even take dual-enrollment classes at local colleges.

      Those options were available before common core standards. Those options will not go away because we have adopted a new set of standards

    • Ann

      I’m confused, Terri. When you and I were in a meeting together with others on February 10th you told me that we need to “go down to where the students are and stop talking about setting high standards.” As a parent and a former teacher, I challenged you on this and shared examples of why I feel we need to set high standards and help all students reach them. Yet, now you’re talking about the standards not being high enough…

  • Travis Grayson

    It is my opinion that Steve Johnson clearly was trying to make the argument for Common Core along with Mrs. Hunter. I guess it would be too much to ask to have an unbiased mediator for the debate of a topic that is of such great importance to so many of the citizens of our State. It appears that even our local news organizations have become polluted with political bias and journalistic integrity no longer exists. Mr. McInnish had good reason to feel as if Steve Johnson was teaming up with Mrs. Hunter to argue against his point of view. No matter to which side of the debate you might fall, it is unfair to all sides when our news professionals can not mediate such a debate without trying to influence public opinion by projecting their personal views into the debate. I was greatly disappointed that Steve Johnson failed to keep his personal views out of this debate.

    • David Shockey

      He merely pointed out that there is no evidence that this is a federal program. As a moderator he was just trying to get Hugh McInnish to stick to the facts.

  • Kristina

    What a horrible job at reporting!! Steve Johnson was not reporting; it’s called propaganda. Mr. Ininnish was spot on when he said Steve made a good team with Ms. Hunter. I think Steve Johnson needs to report, keep his personal views out of the interview

  • JD

    The interview this morning on common core seemed staged and certainly slanted toward attempting to push the standards on the local public. Obviously these standards are hard to explain and even more difficult to clearly define the differences as compared to the current educational approach. Steve Johnson made it very clear to me he was supporting common core, which is not the job of the media unless political gain is driving it. Unfortunately, I have no better understanding than before as to how this will help. It appears to be an attempt to explain why we should adhere to a federally force-funded process that benefits can’t be clearly articulated.

  • Rowland Bussler

    What a JOKE this entire interview was. Very Biased on behalf of Steve Johnson.I challenge him to do a follow up interview with about 10 – 12 people like me (parents and grand parents) that have become well informed on the subject of Common Core and get their opinions of the subject. I hand him his lunch if he tries to treat me the way he dealt with the folks in this interview..

  • Mickey Childers

    Regardless of the standards Mr McInnish correctly pointed out the impetus of CC is from the top down. Otherwise, why would Congressman Chuck Grassley circulate a “Dear Colleague Letter” seeking cosigners, “to block the further use of any funding from the U.S. Department of Education to incentivize or otherwise coerce states into adopting and retaining the Common Core State Standards”.

    • David Shockey

      To make points with his constituents with little or no risk since the bill would have little chance of passing.

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