Washington School District Superintendent Dr. Lori VanLeer said the school standards legislation passed by state lawamakers and sent to the governor appears to be an attempt to appease both opponents and proponents of Common Core.
Missouri’s State Board of Education adopted the federal Common Core standards in 2010. More than 40 other states have adopted the national education standards, and only Indiana has opted to ditch the goals in favor of writing its own.
Missouri lawmakers finalized legislation in their last week of session that would charge groups of parents and educators with writing new student achievement benchmarks, potentially paving the way for the state to discard Common Core.
Gov. Jay Nixon has not said whether he will sign or veto the measure. His office has said the current standards already have been successfully implemented and are “helping us achieve our goals for student learning.”
Missouri students are scheduled to begin taking tests based on Common Core this fall.
The Republican-led Legislature fought against the standards and argued that lawmakers should have been consulted on the decision when state education officials adopted the new benchmarks.
Critics of Common Core began the year wanting to block the standards entirely. But in a compromise, the final legislation would allow Common Core to be used in classrooms until the groups develop new standards.
The groups also would not be prohibited from recommending the continuation of Common Core or certain elements of it.
“It’s an interesting chain of events,” VanLeer said. “It gives the opponents hope that the process will be more transparent and palatable and it gives the proponents hope that the standards won’t be so misunderstood; therefore potentially the standards will be deemed appropriate and worthwhile.”
VanLeer noted many districts, like Washington, have written local curriculum, and already aligned it to the new standards.
Personally, VanLeer said, she’s tired of the drama associated with the standards.
“We want to educate students,” she said. “Continuous improvements and high expectations will continue to be our focus.”
VanLeer said once educators delve into Common Core and truly understand it, she believes the standards in most cases will remain as written.
The bill includes a provision that would prevent teachers and schools from being downgraded for poor performance on Common Core-aligned tests for the first year.
“We’ve done a lot of significant work preparing for Common Core,” VanLeer noted. “Our teachers are fully engaged in it and have made great progress. We will continue to move forward with it until we get more direction from the state.”
Under the bill, state officials would pick teams to develop new school standards for English, math, science and history to be implemented during the 2016 academic year.
For each subject, one group would determine benchmarks for elementary students, while an additional panel would write the goals for older students.
The eight groups would be composed of members chosen by state education associations and leaders, lawmakers, the governor and the lieutenant governor. Four would be parents of children currently enrolled in Missouri schools. The other members would need to have experience in the subject area their group is working on.
The State Board of Education would be required to hold at least three public hearings before adopting the teams’ recommendations.
Nixon has until Aug. 28 to sign the measure.