JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri's Republican-led House scaled back its opposition to new state education standards and endorsed legislation Tuesday to allow them to stay in place while a committee studies their effectiveness.
Initially, the bill would have prevented Missouri from enacting the Common Core State Standards unless authorized by the Legislature. But an amendment was adopted to allow the standards to go forward, as long as a commission is formed to determine appropriate education benchmarks within the next few years.
Republican Common Core opponents said they were trying to find a compromise since many schools already have taken significant steps to implement the new guidelines.
"We need to have an honest discussion of what Common Core is today and figure out how we can move on," said sponsoring Rep. Kurt Bahr, R-St. Charles.
The benchmarks for math, reading and writing have been adopted by many states in an effort to come up with a consistent means of determining what students should know when they prepare for college.
Some lawmakers opposed Bahr's original legislation because school districts already have spent money on the new standards. But many praised the plan for taking a measured approach to study the new guidelines and change them, if necessary.
"This has developed into some really good statesmanship and is a way forward," said House education committee chairman Rep. Steve Cookson, R-Poplar Bluff.
The measure would allow school districts to test students on the Common Core benchmarks as planned this fall. But it would protect school districts and teachers from negative evaluations based on poor student performance during those assessments.
Some supporters said this provision would protect school districts from losing their accreditation status, because the standards could lead to lower test scores.
"We were going to have districts drop like flies with these assessments," said Rep. Genise Montecillo, D-St. Louis.
The group created under the bill would be charged with developing standards for English, language arts, math, history and government. It would include parents, elected officials, education commissioners and representatives from Missouri school board and charter school associations.
The panel would need to present recommendations on standards, which could include the continuation of Common Core, to the State Board of Education in 2015. Those standards would then be implemented by the 2016-17 academic year.
An amendment was also added to the bill that would prevent State Board of Education members from serving more than two terms.
Opponents of the standards argue the Legislature should have been consulted when the standards were adopted by the state education board in 2010. They argue that the standards takes away important curriculum decisions from local school boards.
State education officials have defended Common Core and said it helps students to think critically in the classroom.
The bill needs one more affirmative vote before moving to the Senate.
Common Core is HB1490