Missouri public schools will have new academic standards this fall, with the State Board of Education having adopted standards in April to replace Common Core. Gov. Jay Nixon (D) signed House Bill 1490 in July 2014 to repeal and replace Common Core and require the state government to prepare replacement standards for the 2016-17 school year.
Work groups of educators and parents chosen by state legislative leaders worked for 15 months to develop the standards, which were posted on the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) website for public comment. DESE received more than 3,600 comments in response. DESE spokeswoman Sarah Potter said the department took the comments into account while adjusting the proposed standards before presenting them to the state board.
Some changes implemented by the new Missouri Learning Standards include moving the teaching of Missouri history from fourth grade to third grade and adding cursive writing back to elementary school syllabi.
The DESE announced it will assist schools in developing curricula aligned with the standards for the 2016-17 school year. The DESE is in charge of creating exams aligned with the new standards, on which students will be tested in the spring of 2018. Until then, students will continue to take the current Common Core-aligned exams.
‘DESE Retains Control’
Anne Gassel, a member of the Missouri Coalition Against Common Core, served on one of the work groups that helped develop the new standards. Gassel says the DESE overstepped its bounds during the revision process.
“There was no instruction for the Department of Education to do any reviews, to take any public comments,” Gassel said. “There were three public hearings written into the bill that [were] the chance for public comment. What happened though, in the end, was the Department of Ed took the standards and reformatted all of them. Anyone who knows standards writing knows that format is actually part of one of the things you consider.”
DESE “did make adjustments based on formatting, feedback we received from the public, and missing skills from elementary grades to high school courses,” Potter said in a statement.
“There were some of us who said, ‘Hey wait a minute, we spent tons of time, 15 months, looking at the format,'” Gassel said. “Because in the math, that was one of the complaints with Common Core, [that it was] just too hard to follow.
“So DESE reformatted them to look like—for many people—to look like Common Core,” Gassel said. “[DESE] still retained control. The big picture is, DESE retains control.”
‘A Contentious Process’
Michael McShane, director of education policy at the Show-Me Institute, says compromise is inherent in the type of process Missouri used.
“There were anti-Common Core people that were part of that 3,600 [who commented on the proposed standards],” McShane said. “There were pro-Common Core people that were part of that 3,600. And they all had to kind of meet somewhere in the middle.
“Everyone in some way is unsatisfied, because no one gets what they want,” McShane said.
McShane says standards writing has typically been “a wild process.”
“Even predating the Common Core, like the Blue Ribbon commission to rewrite the math standards, [it] almost always ends in controversy,” McShane said. “In almost any state, if you follow their standards from the ’80s, ’90s, and today, these people’s reports are like, ‘They were yelling in acrimony.’ It’s a contentious process.”
Andrea Dillon ([email protected]) writes from Holly Springs, North Carolina.