Missouri Governor Jay Nixon announced last week that he signed House Bill 1490, which will allow Missouri school districts to continue to implement the rigorous academic performance standards.
Missouri Governor Jay Nixon announced last week that he signed House Bill 1490, which will allow Missouri school districts to continue to implement the rigorous academic performance standards. The bill was originally introduced as a bill to ban the adoption of Common Core standards and was amended significantly through the legislative process. Now, the bill allows the Common Core standards to remain in effect while groups develop recommendations for how the state's academic performance standards might be improved in the future.
Common Core is the national standardization and evaluation of English, reading and mathematics curriculum. Certain states have fought — sometimes successfully, as in the case of neighboring Oklahoma — the implementation of the standards.
“Over the past several years, we have made significant strides to increase rigor, transparency and accountability in our classrooms and with my signature today, this progress will continue,” Nixon said. “By continuing to raise our expectations and implement more rigorous standards, we can ensure every Missouri student graduates with the skills needed to compete and win in the global economy.”
Local superintendents are hopeful that this decision will be beneficial to their districts.
"The version of the bill signed by the Governor allows our district to continue the work and investment we have committed to improving our instructional programs. At the same time the legislation will allow the work groups to take a look and establish what standards will be relevant for our students. We are hopeful the process outlined by the legislation will help make a better product for our students, teachers, parents and patrons," Camdenton R-III Superintendent Tim Hadfield said.
For many local districts, the decision will not change how they currently conduct classes.
"I am all for transparency, community input and standards that are relevant and rigorous enough to equip our children to be productive citizens today and in the future. HB 1490 does not change what we have been doing at School of the Osage — we have always been about local control and Raising Excellence the Osage Way,” Brent Depeé, School of the Osage Superintendent said. “We have and will continue to adjust our curriculum to better prepare our children for the future."
Though she doubted there would ultimately be much change, Morgan County R-II Superintendent Dr. Joyce Ryerson said she saw no problem with reviewing Common Core.
Reviewing standards is an ongoing process in the educational system regardless, and with the level of concern expressed about Common Core in particular, it doesn't do any harm to look it over.
In MCR2, the district started aligning its curriculum with the standard system in 2010 when it was in the midst of an already-planned revision of its math curriculum.
"When we looked at [the math standards], we found that in many cases, we were already doing it," said Ryerson.
Common Core has a few big ideas it wants covered in depth, with curriculum building on skills over time to try to ensure college and career readiness, according to Ryerson.
One of the things the district has seen is an emphasis on mathematical progression. By increasing enrollment in basic Algebra in middle school, more students have the opportunity to go all the way through the math program to the highest level offered at the school calculus for college credit.
"We've seen high math scores as a result and they continue to increase," she said.
In a review of English Language Arts in 2011, the school found it needed more rigorous texts to meet Common Core standards, according to Ryerson. The district selected and purchased new materials that aligned with the difficulty level required.
Since then, the district continues to evaluate the connection of curriculum with Common Core standards as curriculums come up for review as part of its standard process, but still maintains local control over materials and texts used.
MCR2 has a committee that annually reviews rotating curriculum. The committee is made up of administrators, teachers from various backgrounds, parents and students. The curriculum is written by the district's teachers.
If the committee didn't recommend the curriculum, it wouldn't make it to the board of education level for final approval.
Last year, Ryerson said the district reviewed English Language Arts again and found that it needed to focus more on foundational American literature and founding documents, source documents and nonfiction reading and writing.
“What those texts would be specifically and how the subjects are taught,” Ryerson said, “is decided locally and are evaluated to check on things like how students responded to texts and activities.”
Advisory groups will develop new school standards in Missouri for English, math, science and history to be put in place by 2016. The State Board of Education will hold several public hearings on the proposed changes. For each subject, one group will determine benchmarks for elementary students while an additional panel will write the goals for older students.
For now, the contentious federal Common Core standards remain in place.
Amy Wilson and Spree Hilliard contributed to this article.