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Show-Me Standards--OBE or not?

November 02, 1995
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Missouri education is in the midst of a controversy that centers around the three dirtiest words in education circles today - outcome-based education.

Since 1992, Missouri's Education Department has been developing a system of educational standards, the "Show-Me Standards," for public schools.

The standards are designed to improve local education through model curricula and stronger state requirements on local districts.

The Missouri Show-Me Standards hinge on four main goals. Missouri students should acquire the knowledge and skills to:

But the debate has shifted to the question of whether the Show-Me Standards amount to OBE - a question critics often pose as an accusation.

Back in 1992 in preparation for development of the standards, the Education Department issued a lengthy, supportive report about OBE. Now, much of state government is abandoning the term.

Just three years after the Education Department's favorable report, the governor stated his flat opposition to OBE. "My administration is opposed to the tenets often described as being at the heart of OBE philosophy," Gov. Mel Carnahan vowed in a prepared statement.

In the same statement, he wholeheartedly endorsed the Show-Me Standards, which would evaluate students by making them demonstrate what they know. As Carnahan said, "If you can't show it by applying it, you haven't learned it very well."

Some opponents of OBE and the Show-Me Standards say Carnahan is lying to Missourians when he rejects OBE, but endorses the Show-Me Standards. Sen. Peter Kinder, R-Cape Girardeau, said Carnahan, fearing losing the 1996 election, is camouflaging his true opinion on OBE to simply meet public sentiment.

"The governor is a wet-finger-in-the-air politician facing an election next year," Kinder said.

Chris Sifford, Carnahan's spokesman, called Kinder's opinions "demagoguery," and said Carnahan's opinion on OBE has remained consistent.

"The governor hasn't changed his position," Sifford said. "He has continued to support education and will run on that record."

Both OBE supporters and opponents agree that public opinion appears to be against OBE. But some OBE supporters say most people don't really understand the term.

Carol Schmoock, the assistant executive director of the Missouri NEA, said the way opponents are attacking educational standards is unfair.

"Opponents of OBE are not clear about what is or isn't OBE," Schmoock said. "They intentionally lump a lot of things together and say they are OBE."

William Spady, director of an independent consulting firm about OBE, said the term OBE has been unfairly substituted for programs that never were OBE.

"The label [OBE] has become the code label for progressive reforms that people have been led to believe are evil or wrong," Spady said.

Spady also said most public perceptions of OBE are fueled by misinformation, which leads to over-emotional opposition of OBE.

"I think most people haven't got a clue [what OBE is,]" Spady said. "Most people only know what they hear on the radio or in misleading newsletters."