JEFFERSON CITY — Lawmakers in the Missouri House of Representatives decided the Common Core Standards will remain in schools next year, but they appointed educators and parents to begin developing replacement standards.
HB 1490 underwent a tremendous facelift last week on the House floor before heading to the Senate. It was amended to push back the timeline for replacing Common Core, to empower the State Board of Education to begin working on a replacement by October 2015 and to allow the Common Core's first Smarter Balanced Assessments to move forward.
Columbia Public Schools finished revising its K-12 curriculum to reflect the district's new academic standards in late 2012. The Common Core State Standards were developed as a way to combat falling literacy skills in high school graduates. The standards, which emphasize college- and career-readiness and skills-based courses, will also usher in new accountability tests in spring 2015.
The bill passed the House 132-19, even though similar measures Rep. Kurt Bahr, R-St. Charles, introduced in past sessions never gained much traction.
Other states are looking at similar measures. In March, Indiana became the first state to adopt and subsequently drop Common Core.
About the Common Core State Standards
Common Core was developed by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. It is a set of goals for students, but it's not a curriculum. Rather, school districts use Common Core to create their own curricula.
Proponents say Common Core would make it easier to compare student learning state-to-state, while increasing rigor for many states nationwide. Students would be expected to learn material at the same rate as their peers across state boundaries.
Missouri adopted the Common Core Standards in June 2010 with a 5-1 vote by the State Board of Education.
Missouri also agreed to compare to other states its results on the 2014-2015 Smarter Balanced tests, which are written specifically for schools with Common Core. Many Missouri schools have implemented Common Core in the past few years to prepare for those tests.
The Common Core standards are listed in their entirety on corestandards.org/read-the-standards.
This is the third year Bahr has taken up the charge against Common Core. Last year's attempt died at the end of session.
Bahr holds that last year's bill basically educated senators about the issue.
"Two years ago, the idea was, 'Well, we have it, so go away,'" Bahr said. "This year, even the people who were opposed to my bill last year have come around to be concerned with multiple aspects of" Common Core.
Bahr said most of the language in his amendment was pulled from the language Sens. John Lamping, R-St. Louis County, and Ed Emery, R-Lamar, have been working on in the Senate. He said the primary question they're striving to answer is: "If we don't have Common Core, then what?"
"It's a valid concern, and so the intent of the language that I amended onto the bill answers that question," Bahr said. "We're going to create the process to have Missouri standards and Missouri assessments."
The standards could look similar to Common Core, but they'll be Missouri's. To opponents to Common Core, it's the principle of state sovereignty that's important.
HB 1490 would give the legislature more control over Missouri's academic standards. The study groups of education professionals would have a full year to recommend new standards in place of Common Core. The groups would be required to check in with lawmakers on their progress. The State Board of Education would then adopt and implement new standards beginning in the 2016-2017 school year. The statewide assessment system would then be aligned to Missouri's new standards within three years.
The work groups would consist of education professionals chosen by teacher, administrator and school board organizations. Lawmakers would also choose members. Classroom teachers would take most of the positions, but four of the 14 members in each group will be parents of students.
"The Senate bill is bigger than mine, so I expect they will modify it. But the general idea of what we agreed to on the House floor and what the Senate is working on is very similar in concept," Bahr said. "So we'll see what it looks like, but we have a pathway forward."
Columbia Public Schools Superintendent Chris Belcher said he's pleased the House bill would allow schools a year to test out Common Core.
Columbia Public Schools put in hundreds of hours to prepare for teaching Common Core. Teachers formed committees that worked over the summers to align curricula. They created model lessons, documented the standards and developed district interim assessments to measure that students are learning the standards.
"It's a sizable investment and one that we wouldn't want to just forego," Chief Academic Officer Sally Beth Lyon said.
Belcher also pointed out that scores will drop in Missouri with the new tests, and that the public needs to be made aware it doesn't mean students aren't learning or that there is a problem with Common Core.
Lyon said in an interview that Common Core is more rigorous than Missouri's current standards. Certain math is taught earlier, and there's a heavier emphasis on nonfiction reading.
Belcher stressed that local school boards will still approve school district curriculum.