The controversial Common Core educational standards may be subject to complete or partial overhaul in Missouri under legislation signed into law by Governor Jay Nixon. Under the bill endorsed by the Governor on July 14th, a
process is set in place over the next two years which will result in replacement, modification, or reaffirmation of the Common Core educational program.
The systematic re-examination of the Common Core standards is the result of a bill filed by State Representative Kurt Bahr of O'Fallon. The final version, Conference Committee Substitute #2 for House Bill 1490, was the byproduct of strenuous and extended negotiations between legislative leaders, representatives of teachers' unions and school boards, and opponents of the Common Core agenda.
"The Common Core standards are untested and unproven," says Representative Bahr
. "We need more evidence that they will improve the education of our children. The wiser course of action would be to
know what we are getting into before we sign up our children for this experimental system. This new law creates a framework to make sure our state standards are written by Missourians for our state, for our schools, and for our students."
Under the scheme established by the new law, the State Board of Education is required to establish work groups of "education professionals" by October 1st of this year. The work groups are charged with developing recommended academic performance standards in the subject areas of English language arts, mathematics, science, and history and governments.
Each work group will be composed of seventeen members selected from teachers' organizations, school boards, school administrators, and active "education
professionals." Appointments will be made by the State Board of Education, the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Speaker of the House, and President Pro Tem of the Senate. Four parents of children enrolled in the public schools must be included in each work group. Separate work groups will be established for grades kindergarten through five and grades six through twelve.
The new law requires each work group to submit recommended academic performance standards for their subject area and grade levels to the State Board of Education by October 1st of 2015. The State Board is
then required by law to adopt and implement new academic performance standards for the 2016-2017 school year. The State Board could choose to modify the Common Core standards in large or small measure, junk them altogether, or readopt them in their entirety.
The furor over Common Core in Missouri was instigated by Governor Jay Nixon in the summer of 2009. Nixon unilaterally acted to enlist Missouri in the national Common Core consortium. The Common Core standards were pioneered by the National Governors Association in conjunction with the Council of Chief State School Officers. The State Board of Education, which is appointed by the Governor, formally voted to adopt the Common Core standards later that year.
Critics of Common Core have sharply attacked the competency and objectivity of private parties who formulated the benchmarks for academic performance.
Social conservatives have accused the authors of constructing the standards with a liberal ideological bias. Teachers' unions have objected to rigid instructional objectives that require them to once again tailor their classroom material to the expectations of standardized tests.
Regardless of very different views about educational philosophy and academic purposes, educational interest groups share one overriding opinion. They believe that the educational standards used in Missouri schools
should be developed by Missouri educators, not private national corporations who have no accountability to anyone, least of all those who have to make the standards work.
In our view, the most significant part of the new law is a section that received little attention or debate. Missouri law now prohibits either the State Board of Education or the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education from mandating the curriculum, textbooks, or other instructional materials to be used by local public school districts. Each school district is free to approve and adopt a curriculum of its own choosing and determine the textbooks to be used by students in that district.
Some would argue that this freedom is of limited value if textbook publications and curriculum models will all be
rewritten to reflect national Common Core prescriptions. Yet the law still empowers local school boards and school administrators to innovate as they so choose to formulate an educational program targeted to the unique instructional needs of the patrons of that district.
Gretchen Logue of the Missouri Coalition Against Common Core cheered the outcome. "This puts the writing and crafting of Missouri standards back in the hands of Missouri educators and parents. It brings transparency to the process which we didn't have before."
The final version of Representative Bahr's bill was given final approval by the Missouri House by a vote of 135-10. The bill won approval in the Missouri Senate by a vote of 23-6. It will take effect on August 28th. You can read the actual text of the new law by using this link:HB 1490
We commend Representative Bahr for his leadership and perseverance on this issue, and Senators John Lamping, Ed Emery, and Ryan Silvey, who were major proponents of Common Core reform in the Senate. Senate Education Commitee Chairman David Pearce and House Education Committee Chairman Steve Cookson were also key players in the resolution of this issue.