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Administrators, teachers concerned with possible Common Core delay

Wednesday, April 2, 2014 | 8:38 p.m. CDT; updated 11:50 a.m. CDT, Thursday, April 10, 2014

*CLARIFICATION: Missouri's statewide tests will still be known collectively as the Missouri Assessment Program, even though Smarter Balanced tests will be used for some grade levels in 2015.

JEFFERSON CITY — Opponents of the bills that would nix this year's implementation of Common Core State Standards in Missouri spoke today at a Senate Education Committee hearing about the merit of the standards.

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The two bills sponsored by Sens. John Lamping, R-Ladue, and Ed Emery, R-Lamar, would buy the state some time to write its own standards. As currently written, Common Core would be held off for at least another year. 

In a standing-room-only gathering, school administrators and teachers who came out in support of the Common Core Standards argued that districts' local control wouldn't be hindered and also that the rigorous standards will make Missouri's students competitive not only nationally, but globally.

This comes after the past week's hearing when two teachers from the Sikeston R-6 School District testified that they believed their jobs could be in jeopardy because of their staunch opposition to Common Core.

Reps. Dan Brown, R-Rolla, Maria Chappelle-Nadal, D-University City, and Brian Nieves, R-Washington, took turns discussing Common Core. Brown's sticking point was what he perceived to be loss of local control. He said he'd talked to local school boards members who don't know anything about the standards, and he's heard from various superintendents that the students aren't doing well. 

He also said he hoped Common Core wasn't just a cop-out for schools to get out of No Child Left Behind. He worries that this change will set back another generation of students. 

Peter Herschend, Missouri's  State School Board president, said Brown's word choice was a little off. 

"We are learning as we go, just as you are, how to do a better job of comparing legislation," he said. "We are doing the same thing with the standards and policies we set forth."

Missouri's Board of Education voted in favor of the Common Core Standards by a 5-1 vote in 2010. Since then, districts across the state have implemented the standards into their schools by integrating them into the curriculum. Only six states have not adopted the standards.  

Nieves said he didn't think Common Core should be trusted just because it was developed by education gurus.

"Every bind we find ourselves in has been developed by 'education experts,'" he said.

Missouri is one of 33 members of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, the group that will administer the Smarter Balanced statewide tests made for Common Core in spring 2015. *The new Smarter Balanced tests will replace some of the current tests from McGraw-Hill.

Third- through eighth-graders will now take Smarter Balanced tests for Language Arts and math, said Sally Beth Lyon, chief academic officer for Columbia Public Schools. However, the collective tests will still be known as the Missouri Assessment Program.

Kent Medlin, superintendent of the Willard School District, testified about his district's efforts during the past three years to align its curriculumto Common Core. Medlin stressed that local control is still in the district's hands.

More than 100 teachers at Willard worked with the curriculum. Although the rigor has increased, Medlin said student reading and performance has increased during the past year.  

"What I'm fighting for right now is the product," Medlin said.

Local school boards sign off on the curriculum they wish to implement in their districts, and even if legislation prohibits a statewide implementation, a few schools have said they're sticking to it. 

"It's better than what we are using," said Ann Franklin, president of the Independence School District's Board of Education.

Nieves was glad to hear this, and said he appreciates the move forward.

"I have enough faith in the good teachers of Missouri and everyone involved in education that we are going to have continuing better education, with or without Common Core," he said.

Independence School District Superintendent Dale Herl said that he believes one of the biggest misconceptions is the difference between Common Core and curriculum. The two aren't the same thing. Districts use the standards as a base to create curriculum. 

"Nowhere have we been told how to teach, what to teach," Herl said, echoing Medlin. 

Educators appealed to legislators that they read the standards, which are available online.

Emery said a substitution for both bills, 514 and 798, will be drafted and sent to the committee for perusal. Similar legislation in the House are bills 1490 and 1708.

If Common Core is allowed to continue as is, the Department of Secondary Education expects every district in the state to be on-course with the new curriculum and preparing teachers to learn it before the new state testing next year. 

Supervising editor is Gary Castor.



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