JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri could become the second state to drop new education benchmarks if lawmakers approve legislation to require the state to start the process of writing its own student performance standards.
Earlier this year, Indiana became the first state to formally abandon the national Common Core State Standards, which were adopted by more than 40 states in an effort to standardize reading, writing and math benchmarks across state lines.
Like Indiana, Missouri adopted the standards in 2010. But since then, Missouri's Republican-led Legislature has raised concerns that Common Core takes away the state's power to determine education policy for public schools.
Now the Senate is scheduled to debate legislation this week that would charge a panel of educators and parents with writing new student performance goals to replace Common Core. The House passed a similar bill earlier this month.
Critics of Common Core said lawmakers should have been consulted on the decision when the State Board of Education adopted the standards. They want Missouri to write its own student benchmarks with involvement from lawmakers.
"There was no open and transparent process," said Sen. John Lamping, R-Ladue. "I think once Missourians found out they had no say on the adoption of those standards, they now want their own."
State education officials have defended Common Core and said it helps students to think critically in the classroom. A spokesman for Gov. Jay Nixon said the standards have already been successfully implemented and are "helping us achieve our goals for student learning."
If passed by the legislature, the bill directing a rewrite of Missouri's school standards would go to Nixon for his signature or veto.
Under the legislation, work groups would be formed to write new standards for English, math, science and history. For each subject, one group would determine benchmarks for elementary students while an additional panel would write the goals for older students.
The eight groups would be made up of 14 members chosen by state education associations and leaders, lawmakers, the governor and the lieutenant governor. Four would be parents of children currently enrolled in Missouri schools. The panels would hold at least three public hearings across the state.
The groups would also face a tight deadline. They would need to present recommendations to the State Board of Education in 2015. Those standards would be implemented for the 2016-17 academic year.
Opponents raised concerns there might not be enough time for the groups to come up with entirely new benchmarks. They said schools have spent years and a lot of money to implement Common Core and that scrapping the standards entirely could cause those resources to be lost.
But some senators said the time frame in the bill is adequate, especially because elements of Common Core could be included in the final recommendations.
"The work groups are going to have to work hard and going to have to have people that are very dedicated to roll up their sleeves and do some hard work," said Senate Education Committee Chairman David Pearce, R-Warrensburg.
If the bill is enacted, Missouri schools would continue to use Common Core in the classroom and for student assessments. But teachers and schools could not be downgraded for poor performance on the Common Core-aligned tests scheduled for this fall.
About 100 bills were introduced in statehouses across the country this year to pause or repeal the standards, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Tennessee lawmakers recently approved legislation to delay Common Core-based student testing for one year.