Missouri legislators approve meausre that allows the state to create new academic performance standards
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Missouri legislators approve meausre that allows the state to create new academic performance standards

Date: April 8, 2014
By: Josie Butler
State Capitol Bureau
Links: HB 1490

JEFFERSON CITY -The state Board of Education would be required to develop and recommend new academic performance standards in place of the federal Common Core standards under a measure approved by the Missouri House.

Legislators debated Tuesday, April 8, a bill that would prohibit the State Board of Education and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education from adopting and implementing the Common Core Standards developed by the Common Core Standards Initiative.

"Proponents have sold common core as a more rigorous standard for our children, and anyone who opposes it opposes better education," said Rep. Kurt Bahr, R-St. Charles, the bill's sponsor. "This is a false choice that seeks to eliminate honest debate on a contentious issue."

Bahr said he has 8 reasons for opposing Common Core:

  1. Process: the Common Core standards were implemented without the advice of the General Assembly.
  2. State's rights: Bahr said the state does not control the standards that the students are held to, nor the tests they are evaluated with.
  3. Cost: new tests would cost twice as much as recent tests.
  4. Show Me State: These standards are untested and unproven, Bahr said, it is unknown whether this is improving education or not.
  5. Development is inappropriate: a number of child psychologists have said the rigorous standards are inappropriate for the younger children. "They exceed normal child developmental abilities," Bahr said.
  6. Stress: The increased emphasis on testing has put stress on children. "In New York we have reports of children injuring themselves because of the tests, and in Tennessee there is a school putting kids in detention for not doing well on a pre-test, so they will have extra time to study for the test."  
  7. Data: There are concerns that student identifiable data can be determined even if it is masked.
  8. Decreased results for several years: With the new tests, test scores will decrease for the next several years. Bahr said this could put our schools in jeopardy.  

"There are a lot of reasons to be concerned with Common Core, the way it is and the way it has been implemented in our state," Bahr said. "I think we need to have an honest discussion of what Common Core is today and talk about our move forward and what we can do from this point on."

Bahr presented an amendment to his bill, because he said the initial bill was too harsh, meant to force the debate of Common Core. His amendment would require the State Board of Education, by October 1, 2014,  to create "work groups" composed of education professionals to develop and recommend new academic performance standards that will take the place of the common core standards.

"We're not saying we don't want rigorous standards," Bahr said. "What we do want is Missouri standards. So this creates the pathway for Missouri to create standards for our children, controlled, written and administered by the state of Missouri... This is our state dictating our standards and our assessments for our children. This is the direction forward for the education system of our state."

The amendment would create separate work groups for English language arts, mathematics, science, and history and governments. For each of the four subject areas, two work groups, one for grades kindergarten through grade five and one for grades six through twelve would be formed.

The work groups would be required to recommend new standards to the State Board of Education by October 1, 2015, and the approved standards will be implemented beginning in the 2016 school year.

Rep. Kevin Engler, R-Farmington, said constituents have expressed concern with this bill. He said many school districts have already implemented these standards and it is very difficult to change those standards once they have been implemented.

"Everybody that has said they are concerned with it also said that they want people held accountable, they want school districts held accountable, and the only way that you're going to have that is through some form of testing," Engler said.

Rep. David Wood, R-Versailles, also offered an amendment that would require the Department of Elementary and Secondary education to pilot the assessments formed by the work groups in the 2014-2015 school year. He said this will ensure the proper implementation of the new standards and allow time for the students and teachers to adjust.

Rep. Ed Schieffer, D-Troy, said he has spoken to superintendents in four different counties and they are all saying the Common Core program has to be saved. He said they don't want it "thrown out the window."

"They've spent too much time, too many hours, too much money to at least start implementing Common Core," he said.

He also said he is very concerned with saving tax dollars and did not want to throw the program "out the window and waste all that money."

"Let's all try to work together to do what's good for the children, good for the state of Missouri" Schieffer said.

No direct opposition to the bill was presented during the House debate. In previous debates, teachers from across the state have opposed throwing out the common core. During the House Committee on Elementary and Secondary Education's hearing on Feb. 20, this year's teacher of the year Jamie Manker testified in opposition to the bill. She said the standards do not tell her how or what to teach, but they do make her expect more from her students.

The measure was passed in the House and will now move to the Senate for approval.