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Nixon endorses common core of state educational standards

Wednesday, July 1, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT; updated 12:34 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, July 1, 2009

COLUMBIA — Gov. Jay Nixon has signed the first part of a memorandum developing a common core of educational standards in English and math at the K-12 level, uniting Missouri with the 46 other states already on board with such standards.

The plan is expected to go forward after the Missouri State Board of Education's scheduled announcement of the state's new education commissioner Thursday morning.

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In a letter to Ray Scheppach, executive director of the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, Nixon stated that he supports the standards.

“It is important to take this first step and join in this nationwide process to develop a common core of state standards in English arts and mathematics for elementary and secondary students based on research and evidence-based learning,” Nixon stated in the letter.

ACT and other testing organizations will develop the standards, said Russell Thompson, president of the State Board of Education and a former Columbia superintendent.

The advantage is that schools can compare student test scores state-by-state or compare one state to the national average, he said.

“It’s different than it has been in the past,” Thompson said. “Hopefully, it will be a good thing. There has been a lot of momentum behind the common core standards.”

The standards may help bring Missouri up to the level of other states nationwide, said Michelle Pruitt, a Columbia School Board member and a parent on the district's former Mathematics Community Advisory Committee.

“I’m hopeful that the new standards will be an improvement. A couple of the states — Massachusetts and California — that have signed on have much better standards than Missouri,” she said.

There are two predominant issues when looking at mathematics education, Pruitt said, namely what the students learn and when they learn it.

“I think there needs to be an emphasis on making sure students learn both concepts and procedures,” Pruitt said. “We need to be sure that kids are allowed to master the material at the appropriate pace so some opportunity for the curriculum can be personalized for certain students.”

According to the memorandum of agreement, the new standards will be aligned with college and work expectations and will include rigorous content and skills.

The memo also states that the Missouri education system will be able to do the following:

  • Articulate to parents, teachers and the general public expectations for students;
  • Align textbooks, digital media and curricula to internationally benchmarked standards;
  • Ensure that professional development to educators is based on identified need and best practices; and
  • Develop and implement an assessment system to measure student performance against the common core.

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