Government & Politics

Proposed Missouri standards to replace Common Core draw criticism

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It has been more than a year full of public meetings and reviews aimed at ultimately axing the current benchmarks for what Missouri schoolchildren should learn in each grade, but some opponents still are not satisfied with the proposed changes.

The concern is that, despite legislative efforts meant to ditch the contentious national Common Core standards, the recommended replacement goals might not be much different. The standards now in place took five years to enact in Missouri and were fully implemented only last year.

In the 2014 session, lawmakers required a public process to draft new learning standards in an effort to ditch Common Core by the 2016-2017 school year, and the resulting proposed guidelines for K-12 learning will be presented later this month to the state Board of Education.

While proponents say the Common Core standards were designed to provide students with consistency from state to state, critics say the standards — particularly the learning objectives for math — can be too complicated and difficult to understand. Some also have wondered whether the standards were adopted without enough input from local parents and teachers.

Lawmakers wanted to make sure the changes to Missouri’s standards, now available for public review, involved more of the state’s teachers and parents, but what resulted from that work doesn’t clear the bar for some who had a say.

The sixth- through eighth-grade math standards are “very, very similar” to Common Core, said Anne Gassel, who was on a work group that reviewed education goals for those grades and who also is a leader for the group Missouri Coalition Against Common Core.

“Virtually nothing was done with those,” Gassel said, though she declined to elaborate on specific similarities. In a statement, however, Gassel said that members of some of the work groups tasked with revising benchmarks tried to direct the conversation to preserve “the overall structure and essence of the Common Core standards” and that “continuing such a comparison effort at this point is a waste of time.”

Similar frustration among some members of two other groups evaluating science and English standards for grades 6-12 led some participants to split off and submit so-called minority reports, suggesting alternative standards.

One letter from a dissenting group calls the proposed new 6-12 English standards “simply another rebrand of the current Common Core standards” and advised the state to instead use learning goals based on ones that were originally implemented in Massachusetts before the Common Core.

Education board members will review a comparison of the proposed and current standards at the upcoming Oct. 26 meeting, where members of the splinter groups will have a chance to offer suggestions for different learning guidelines then.

The public revision process was put in place “to get input directly from educators and parents, and that’s the process that’s been followed,” said Sarah Potter, spokeswoman for the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

The public can comment on the standards between Nov. 2 and Dec. 2, and Potter said feedback from teachers and parents is encouraged.

The recommended standards still face several cycles of revision before the State Board of Education, which must give final approval, will take action in March.