Two bills have been filed and will be coming up for debate—House Bill 616 and Senate Bill 210—that seek to prohibit the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) from implementing Common Core in Missouri. In addition, the bills state that action already taken to adopt or implement Common Core will be void. If either of these bills were to pass, it would require the governor’s signature in order to become law. If it passes and becomes law, it would prohibit the future adopting or implementing of any statewide educational standards without the approval of the General Assembly. It is my purpose to inform my constituents about the pros and cons of the Common Core State Standards.
First, let me give a brief history of the CCSS. In 2010, governors from forty-five states agreed to adopt a single set of requirements for what K-12 students should know at each grade level in math and English. This is known as Common Core State Standards, and they comprise one of the most comprehensive K-12 educational reform efforts in our nation’s history. CCSS were called for and created by the Obama Administration.
Although the word “state” is commonly used in the standard’s description, no state government has produced any of them. Rather, committees from several states, including Missouri, came together to create these for nationwide use. State governors signed on to these standards before they were even completed. At this time, Common Core national standards for science and history are being developed, with national testing slated to begin in 2014.
Back in 2010, the Obama Administration by-passed Congress to initiate the Common Core, using federal stimulus money to finance it. Many states were having a very difficult time meeting the requirements of President Bush’s education law, No Child Left Behind (NCLB). The Obama Administration promised state governors the opportunity to opt out of NCLB if they would sign on to Common Core.
Proponents of Common Core state that the standards are more rigorous than are current Missouri education standards. They also state that these standards, when shared across state lines, would allow greater collaboration and sharing of resources among educators. Many Missouri school districts have already begun the phasing in of the new standards, such as professional development, educational resources and curriculum, with Common Core standards in mind. These standards tell what is expected of each student, but they don’t dictate the curriculum or the teaching practices that are to be used. At this time, the curriculum and the teaching practices are to be developed by the school districts.
Opponents of Common Core State Standards are quick to point out that the standards were developed without the approval of Missouri’s General Assembly, and that they will amount to a loss of local control over what children learn. Opponents also express concern that the cost of implementing these standards and the cost of assessments aligned to the standards could become very expensive for the districts, and that all major tests, including college entrance exams, are aligning to these standards. Furthermore, they have concerns about the amount of student-level information being collected and fed into a national student database, which could be shared with the U.S. Department of Education.
Personally, I have had the opportunity to visit with educators—teachers, as well as administrators—from both sides of the issue. As a legislator, my question has been,
“Why is Common Core so controversial?” Most educators in Missouri have endorsed Common Core, and many legislators from both sides of the political aisle have signed on to it. Missouri’s governor has also endorsed it. Much of the opposition to CCSS seems to be coming from parent groups and education-reform groups. One of their main concerns is the nationalization of education.
Currently, there are three education laws against national standards curriculum and control of education. Each of these laws essentially says the same thing: the U.S. Department of Education shall not be involved in developing, supervising, or controlling instructional materials or curriculum. According to concerned groups, the first two subjects chosen—English and math—were selected as the starting points because they were considered to be less controversial. These groups say the next two subjects, science and history, could be problematic, especially considering who will be writing the textbooks that address issues of climate change and, perhaps, as many fear, the rewriting of American history, while at the same time pushing children to support ideas of massive federal government.
As we move forward with education reforms in our state, discussion of the issues has raised some interesting questions from impassioned individuals, both for and against the idea of Common Core State Standards in Missouri. However, with only three weeks remaining in this Session, it is uncertain how much time will be available to address these group’s ardent concerns.