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Legislature: Common Core no more?

The Missouri Senate passed legislation Thursday that could pave the way for the state to ditch relatively new national benchmarks for student achievement known as Common Core.

Senators voted 23-9 to send the bill back to the House where it passed earlier this month. The House could accept the Senate’s changes or negotiate a compromise. Both versions would charge groups of educators with developing and implanting new education goals for English, math, science and history by the 2016 academic year.

If approved and signed by Gov. Jay Nixon, Missouri would become only the second state to move away from the widespread education plan. Earlier this year Indiana became the first state to abandon Common Core – which was adopted by more than 40 states in an effort to standardize basic education benchmarks across state lines.

Both Missouri and Indiana had adopted the standards in 2010.

The Daily Journal spoke with each superintendent of St. Francois County’s five public school districts about the proposed changes.

West County Superintendent Stacy Stevens said his concerns are that school districts, over the past two or three years, have been preparing to make the transition to the Common Core.

“We actually have taken a slower approach than other school districts. We have geared our professional development and other things towards the Common Core once Missouri had passed it previously and to throw this curve ball in at the end is concerning.

“Now we don’t know what direction we are going as a state. We are getting ready to make a significant purchase of a new math curriculum that goes along with the Common Core that we have to hold off on right now while we figure out what direction we are going in as a state.

“The major concern is that it’s awfully late in the game to make decisions like that, especially without giving it a chance to see if it will work for Missouri kids,” said Stevens.

Central Superintendent Dr. Desi Mayberry said he doesn’t know how districts are going to develop any other standards that wouldn’t have Common Core standards as a component.

“They started from a good source to begin with and America is so mobile now there needs to be a basic knowledge that everybody has because we don’t know where the kids will go to college or where they will work at,” he said. “I did not agree with the way the standards were going to be assessed because it was going to be a computerized test and students would be required to use a mouse and have to manipulate rulers on the computer screen in order to do the assessment.

“I didn’t think there was any way it would give a valid test score. So regardless of what new standard they come up with I hope they look at the way they are going to assess these standards because we need to get a valid test score.”

Farmington Superintendent Matt Ruble weighed in on the Senate’s actions as well.

“The Farmington School District strongly supports standards for all of our students that will increase the rigor in the classroom and prepare every student to be college and career ready as that student exits our school system,” Ruble said. “The Missouri Learning Standards are rigorous standards and allow for local control in curriculum and teaching.

“We are hopeful that the state legislature will work with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and educators from across the state as decisions are made about the goals we set for our students.”

Bismarck Superintendent Chuck Hasty said on the surface he believes Common Core is the way to go.

“It’s beneficial to students who are transient, which we see a lot of in our area. It would be nice for students who come from Central to Bismarck and can go from us to another school and have a common curriculum.

“I’m not a huge fan of curriculum being dictated by the federal government and we still need to have local control. It comes down to the ability to have local control and that is the most important aspect of public education.

“Our people are trained and they know what needs to be taught across the board. We have put in a lot of time over the last couple years preparing to go that direction in addition to the big purchases. The disappointing thing would be to put forth all this effort in anticipation of Common Core and then have it changed.”

North County Superintendent Dr. Yancy Poorman said the administration is disappointed and concerned from an administrative secondary school perspective.

“We have invested so much time, money and particularly conscientious work. People have really focused and tried to work towards this Common Core,” Poorman explained. “We think it had potential to be a good thing. We are afraid legislative intervention will muddy the waters. It will delay the process and it also removes the focus that schools need so that we have a direction we are trying to achieve.

“If we know what we are trying to achieve we work diligently towards it so that our students perform well and our seniors are successful. If we have no idea what the target is, or it is simply floating, that takes our students to a point that they are wandering.

“They need to stay on target towards the goals that the state wants to see them achieve and we try to get them there.”

According to missourilearningstandards.com, the Common Core State Standards are “updated English, language arts and mathematics expectations providing additional clarity and depth to Missouri’s current grade-level expectations and course-level expectations. They define content that builds from one grade to the next.”

Common Core creators have included more real world application requirements through reading, writing, and mathematics. This should give students the knowledge and skills they need for college and career success, proponents say.

They are also robust, ensuring a future Missouri workforce that remains competitive in a global economy. It’s said the standards have allowed educators to improve upon current state expectations, which have already been judged to be among the most rigorous in the country.

Now it’s just a wait and see game to see what the future holds for Missouri’s Common Core standards.

Renee Bronaugh is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-518-3617 or rbronaugh@dailyjournalonline.com

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