JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri became the latest state to adopt a new set of education benchmarks to replace the national Common Core standards, ditching the benchmarks Tuesday following conservative backlash.
The State Board of Education approved new goals for what children from kindergarten to 12th grade should learn not only in math and English, which the Common Core covers, but also social studies and science. Major changes include more emphasis on research in language arts and reorganizing math benchmarks for kindergarten through 2nd grade, according to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. The learning goals also include cursive writing for elementary school students.
As usual, it's up to schools to develop curriculum that follows the new standards, which will take effect next school year.
Leaving behind the Common Core standards, which describe what students should know after completing each grade and were initially adopted by a majority of U.S. states, was spurred by state lawmakers who two years ago required the state board to adopt new standards. While critics around the country say the standards, particularly objectives for math, can be too complicated and difficult to understand, much of the pushback in Missouri centered on concern that the standards were adopted without enough local input.
The changes, proposed by panels of teachers and parents who reviewed Missouri's learning goals and heard from more than 3,600 lawmakers, educators and academic researchers, were lauded Tuesday by board members.
"Whether they agree or disagree with the outcome, it was a true participatory process," said board member Joe Driskill, who had questioned whether the new math standards are specific and rigorous enough. "It has produced something that is uniquely Missourian."
The involvement of Missouri teachers stood out to Rep. David Wood, a Versailles Republican and chairman of a legislative committee on education. He said it's time to accept the new standards, adding that "there are some people that will not be satisfied, no matter what."
While Anne Gassel, a leader of the Missouri Coalition Against Common Core who also worked on the middle and high school math panel, believes the new standards are an improvement, she has quibbles. The English standards still are similar to Common Core, she said, and the final product is too different from what work groups had recommended that the board adopt.
"Whether they're the same as Common Core or not was not what was really critical to us," Gassel said. "What was critical to us was that there was a process in place that would allow the state to set its own standards."
Missouri Association of School Administrators spokesman David Luther said consistent standards are needed.
"It's just incredibly difficult for districts to meet the educational needs of students when the targets are ever-changing," Luther said. "In that regard, we feel like this is a step in right direction."
The state's next step is to develop tests that match the new learning objectives, on which students won't be tested until spring of 2018.