Missouri has became the latest state to implement a new set of education standards to replace the federal standards set by Common Core. Missouri now joins a long list of states that have voted to replace Common Core with their independently designed guidelines.
The Missouri State Board of Education approved new benchmarks for students from kindergarten through 12th grade. The new guidelines lay out topics in English, mathematics, social studies and science. The learning targets also include proficiency in cursive writing for elementary students and place an emphasis on research in the language arts. It is now up to Missouri schools to develop their own curricula in accordance with these guidelines.
Reporters for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch write that the Missouri state legislature first decided to spurn the federal standards two years ago in 2014. Striking a familiar chord, the opposition to Common Core argued that the federal government did not take local input into account while designing its standards.
By contrast, in Missouri, a panel of teachers and parents approved the changes to Missouri's education guidelines. The panel solicited the advice of more than 3,600 lawmakers, educators, and researchers to tailor the standards.
"Whether they agree or disagree with the outcome, it was a true participatory process," says member Joe Driskill. "It has produced something that is uniquely Missourian."
According to Nicole Gorman of EducationWorld, Missouri's standards restore traditional math in high schools. The mathematics standards set by Common Core have been widely denounced for being too confusing and poorly implemented.
Some critics argue, however, that Missouri's new guidelines are a poor replacement to those set by Common Core. They assert that the math standards are inadequate and that the English guidelines remain virtually identical to those laid out by the federal government. Ann Gassel, a leader of the Missouri Coalition Against Common Core, said Missouri's new standards are "too different from what work groups had recommended the board adopt."
State Representative David Wood, the Republican chairman of the legislative committee on education, anticipated backlash. He said that "there are some people that will not be satisfied, no matter what."
The spokesman for the Missouri Association of School Administrators, David Luther, was more ambivalent in his statement on the changes. "It's just incredibly difficult for districts to meet educational needs of students when the targets are ever-changing. In that regard, we feel like this is a step in the right direction."
Largely, the debate over educational standards has lost its focus. Proponents and critics alike find themselves arguing about the limitations of state authority, with many losing sight of the whole purpose underpinning education standards: the preparedness of college and employment-bound students. Opposition to Common Core has reached a fever pitch in the Republican presidential primaries with the two leading contenders, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, vociferously denouncing the standards.
Missouri's next challenge will be to develop tests that correspond with the new learning objectives. Testing on the new standards will commence in the spring of 2018.