Proposed Missouri K-12 learning standards draw criticism

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) – Proposed changes to standards used to guide K-12 Missouri student learning drew broad criticism Monday, ranging from claims that the recommendations are too similar to what’s already in place to concerns about whether changes are needed.

Missouri lawmakers who oppose the national Common Core standards the state now uses passed legislation in 2014 to require a review of the benchmarks, with the goal of ultimately ditching them.

Panels of parents, teachers and other education experts met for roughly a year to draft the new standards presented to the State Board of Education on Monday. The groups also reviewed social studies and science standards, even though Common Core only covers English and mathematics.

Common Core is intended to ensure students have the same learning goals from state-to-state, which proponents say can help children of families that frequently move and also can help states compare student learning. Opponents say Common Core was adopted without enough local input and that the standards can be overcomplicated.

Educators during the board meeting praised ideas that would bring a greater focus on engineering, new drama and poetry standards and suggestions to improve middle and high school science.

Science Teachers of Missouri President-Elect Mike Szydlowski said the group “strongly recommends” that the board to adopt the recommended science standards for grades 6-12.

“All the standards represent examples of higher-level thinking,” he said.

But Szydlowski also said some of the standards seem disjointed and out of context, particularly the elementary science ones.

Board members and other educators raised concerns about whether elementary and secondary proposed standards for some subjects aligned, in part because lawmakers required separate groups for K-5 and 6-12 standards for each subject that didn’t always collaborate.

Common Core opponents slammed the process used to develop the standards, while others questioned the need to drop what’s now in place and potentially lose the ability to compare Missouri students on a national and international level.

Even some of those who helped craft the new standards say more needs to be done.

Lou Ann Saighman, a member of the 6-12 English work group, said despite changes some wording is “exactly” the same in the proposed and current standards.

“Those are Common Core standards that they have given you,” Saighman said.

A recommended geometry standard calls for students to know how to “classify quadrilaterals in a hierarchy based on properties.” Students now must “classify two-dimensional figures in a hierarchy based on properties.”

Education Commissioner Margie Vandeven also said some of the recommended standards are not “significantly different,” but said the goal is to make only needed changes.

“My mission is not to create X percentage for or against Common Core,” Vandeven said. “My mission is to really ensure we’re putting the best standards in front of our kids and teachers.”

State law requires standards be in place by the 2016-2017 school year, putting education officials in a time crunch to address concerns. Vandeven said that’s her greatest worry, but said she still thinks it’s possible to make needed revisions in time to vote on standards in March.

The standards now head to academic researchers and lawmakers for additional input. The public can comment on standards from Nov. 2 to Dec. 2.

 

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