COLUMBIA — Missouri will now participate in a national movement forming common core standards in English and math, rather than watch from the sidelines.
“I’m glad that the state has decided to participate," said Michelle Pruitt, a member of the Columbia School Board and a parent who served on the district's Mathematics Community Advisory Committee before it was disbanded. "I think it’s important for Missouri to compare itself to other states and not be isolated.”
On Thursday, the State Board of Education voted to authorize Education Commissioner Chris Nicastro to join the Common Core State Standards Initiative. Although Nicastro still needs to sign the memorandum, she has publicly supported the initiative.
“We now have a patchwork of differing state-developed standards, and that has become a barrier to improving academic performance for all students,” Nicastro said in a statement.
The vote was 6-1, with board member Deborah Demien casting the dissenting vote, said Jim Morris, public information director for the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
In 2007, the state board voted against signing on to have national standards, said Russell Thompson, a state board member and former superintendent for Columbia Public Schools. At the time, board members were concerned with lowering Missouri’s standards to be a part of a movement to national standards, Thompson said.
Now, states can have higher standards if they choose, but they cannot fall below the national standards, Thompson said.
“The board discussed (the standards) with the new commissioner and concluded that it was important to at least be involved in the discussion rather than having no role,” he said. “We’re hopeful that the new standards will have a positive impact on public education.”
States that haven’t signed on are Alaska, South Carolina and Texas.
On June 25, Gov. Jay Nixon sent a letter to Ray Scheppach, executive director of the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, detailing his support for Missouri joining the effort to form common core standards.
Nixon signed the memorandum of agreement, but at the time he was waiting for a new state commissioner of education to be named, so that person could sign on as well. Nicastro was appointed July 2.
“I think we have nothing to lose and much to gain by joining the Common Core State Standards effort,” Nicastro said in a statement.
Developing good standards will depend on a solid review process, Pruitt said.
Organizations such as the Thomas B. Fordham Institute and U.S. Chamber of Commerce have reviewed Missouri’s standards in the past, Pruitt said. Missouri always gets low marks because the standards are not specific or focused enough, she said.
“When you have standards that are clear," Pruitt said, "that means parents, students, teachers and school districts can focus on achieving those standards.”