New state education standards would be developed under legislation

Missouri lawmakers are beginning to coalesce around legislation to do away with the controversial Common Core standards, while also establishing a process to develop new state education standards.

Rather than just barring the implementation of Common Core, the Legislature is moving toward an approach to create work groups that would develop and recommend a set of standards to the State Board of Education. The state board would have the final say on whether or not to adopt the new standards.

The Common Core standards, which seek to establish the reading and math skills that students should have at each grade level, were created by a consortium of state education officials and adopted by the Missouri state board in 2010. Opponents of the standards argue the state board rushed to adopt them without a transparent process that included input from the Legislature or the public.

The Senate Education Committee heard a House-passed bill Wednesday and unanimously voted to send to the floor a similar Senate version.

The House approved the legislation 132-19 after making significant amendments that established the process to create new state standards.

“If we don’t do Common Core, then what? Well, this bill deals with the what,” the legislation’s House sponsor Kurt Bahr, R-St. Charles, told the Senate committee.

The bill would require the state board create eight work groups by Oct. 1 tasked with developing state standards in four subject areas for kindergarten through fifth grade and sixth grade through 12th grade. The subject areas are: English language arts, math, science, and history and governments.

The work groups would have one year to develop the standards and would be required to make monthly progress reports to the speaker of the House and the Senate president pro tem. Earlier versions of legislation prohibited the implementation of Common Core, but didn’t establish the process to create new standards.

Education groups that had previously opposed the anti-Common Core bills have tempered their opposition and expressed support of the new approach.

“We have an appreciation of the process that has moved this from a bill that was aimed at blowing things up and to one that looks to put the reset on public engagement,” Otto Fajen of Missouri NEA said.

The Senate committee adopted some of the work group provisions in the House bill and endorsed its own version 10-0. Senators who had introduced their own bills to stop Common Core said they were happy to have a bill that had gained the support of teachers and educators, and would move toward standards the state could call its own.

“The intent of the bill is to begin an open and transparent process to ultimately adopt Missouri standards,” said Sen. John Lamping, R-Ladue, who sponsors one of the Senate versions of the legislation. “It was because of the lack of openness and transparency that we are where we are today.”

The work groups would include somewhere between 10 and 14 members appointed by a variety of elected officials and education associations with at least some of the members being parents with students in schools. The legislation would also require the state board hold at least three public hearings during the development of the standards.

Committee chair David Pearce, R-Warrensburg, said he thinks this process would create standards the state board was likely to approve.

“With the discussion and scrutiny (from the work groups), it would rise to a higher level and would be paid attention to,” Pearce said.

While Pearce said both chambers were “coalescing” around the new standards approach, he also said he would like to remove a provision from the House bill that puts term limits on state board members, an issue he said “muddies the water.”

Pearce said the term limits provision was not germane to the underlying bill.

A House education committee heard a stand-alone bill Wednesday morning that would establish term limits for state board members, who can serve an unlimited number of eight-year terms. Other legislation in the House seeks to create an elected state school board rather than the current governor-appointed board, which would require a constitutional amendment.

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