JEFFERSON CITY – Missouri lawmakers finalized legislation Thursday that would charge groups of parents and educators with writing new student achievement benchmarks, potentially paving the way for the state to ditch national education goals.
Missouri's State Board of Education adopted the Common Core standards in 2010. More than 40 other states have adopted the standards, and only Indiana has opted to ditch the goals in favor of writing its own.
The Republican-led Senate voted 23-6 to send the bill to Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon. It cleared the House with a 135-10 vote earlier Thursday.
Nixon has not said whether he will sign or veto the measure. His office has said the current standards already have been successfully implemented and are "helping us achieve our goals for student learning." Missouri students are scheduled to begin taking tests based on Common Core this fall.
The Republican-led Legislature has fought against the standards and argued that lawmakers should have been consulted on the decision when state education officials adopted the new benchmarks.
Critics of Common Core began the year wanting to block the standards entirely. But in a compromise, the final legislation would allow Common Core to be used in classrooms until the groups develop new standards. The groups would not be prohibited from recommending the continuation of Common Core or certain elements of it.
Under the bill, state officials would pick teams to develop new school standards for English, math, science and history to be implemented during the 2016 academic year. The State Board of Education would be required to hold at least three public hearings before adopting the team's recommendations.
"Maybe not everyone will like it, but they will at least feel like they were part of the process," said Sen. David Pearce, R-Warrensburg.
For each subject, one group would determine benchmarks for elementary students while an additional panel would write the goals for older students. The eight groups would be composed of members chosen by state education associations and leaders, lawmakers, the governor and the lieutenant governor. Four would be parents of children currently enrolled in Missouri schools. The other members would need to have experience in the subject area their group is working on.
Until the new standards are implemented, Common Core would continue to be taught in Missouri schools. But the bill includes a provision that would prevent teachers and schools from being downgraded for poor performance on Common Core-aligned tests for the first year.
One of the Legislature's loudest critics of the standards said the bill was the first step in the anti-Common Core movement.
"Every time I get together with a group of anti-Common Core moms, the crowd is bigger and they're madder and they're more informed," said Sen. John Lamping, R-St. Louis County.