Group Chosen to Rewrite Missouri Standards Gridlocked

A group of educators and parents chosen to rewrite education standards in Missouri cannot agree how to proceed.

The group of 132 educators and parents met for the first time on Monday in Jefferson City, spending their time arguing over how involved the state education department should be and how best to rewrite the national standards currently in place.

The group is made up of panel members chosen by the Governor, the Lieutenant Governor, the State Board of Education, the Senate President, the House Speaker and the Commissioner of Higher Education.

Panel members will be divided into four subject areas – language arts, math, science, and social studies – with 16 members working together in each area for K-5, and 17 working in each subject for grades 6-12.

A state law enacted in May requires new state standards for each grade to replace the national Common Core set.  While the federal standards were put in place to create fluency throughout the nation, opponents claim they take away much of the local control over education.

“It’s a big list,” said Todd Scott, chief of staff to Senate President Pro Tempore Tom Dempsey, whose office is designated to provide 32 names. “We’re soliciting a wide variety of viewpoints. To get buy-in, you really need a diverse amount of thought in the room.”

While state lawmakers insist the new law was put in place to allow the Department of Education to assist the panel, not control them, many say that is not what is happening.

“DESE made their presence known, made their agenda known, wanted their outcomes known, and they were very crystal clear about it,” says Chris Howard of Ballwin. “The facilitators had an agenda, and the agenda was to protect DESE’s interests in maintaining whatever of Common Core that they could.”

Howard said all of this resulted in flaring tempers throughout the meeting.

A statement released by House Speaker Tim Jones Tuesday morning was an attempt to clear up any miscommunications about the position of the DESE throughout the proceedings.

“We expected that the stakeholders that were appointed to the committees would be the ones that would work together to manage the process and not that DESE would suddenly somehow presume that they were in charge of everything,” says Jones.

While over 40 states continue to use Common Core, Missouri is one of four states that have chosen to back away from the standards.

“The politics came before,” said Howard, “and now it’s about policy. As a parent I’m concerned that this process works. I’m interested in a good outcome, not a political outcome.”

The group will resume meetings next week.  They hope to have the new standards ready by October 2015.