Missouri replaces Common Core with its own standards

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Board brings back cursive writing, replaces memorization

The state board of education recently approved the new Missouri Learning Standards, which replace Common Core standards for math and English, include reorganizing math benchmarks for kindergarten through second grade, place more emphasis on research in language arts, incorporate application-based learning in social studies and science and bring back the teaching of cursive writing to kindergarten through fifth grade.

"The main goal of this process is to establish a set of learning standards that will help school districts to prepare students to be college and career ready," said Richard Asbill, superintendent for the Cassville school district.

The changes will take effect during the 2016-2017 school year.

Common Core critics claimed the standards, which were adopted two years ago by a majority of states to provide consistency across state lines in educational benchmarks, were too complicated, especially in math, compared to traditional teaching, and that the standards were adopted without enough local input.

"There's a natural process that happens in education where academic standards are reviewed every five years or so, but in 2014, lawmakers wanted us to look at English and math in particular because they were part of the Common Core standards," said Sarah Potter, communications coordinator for Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE). "Common Core has gotten a bad rap. If you look at the standards, it doesn't prescribe a certain teaching method. How a local district decides to teach are up to them.

"It got blamed for those methods of teaching. We're concerned that Americans are not the top math performers, and yet we don't want to change the way we teach it. It's not just memorizing [a way of doing it], but for a child to understand what [3 x 5] is. We don't expect doctors to do the same thing doctors did 20 years ago, so why would we expect teachers to do the same thing we did in school? It's about better ways of getting kids to understand the material.

Potter said Common Core followed the No Child Left Behind campaign, which required all the states to set standards. Its intentions were good, but the end result was not.

"What you got was 50 different sets of standards," Potter said. "The idea was we would have a common set of standards for English and math, so when kids were moved out of state, they had an idea of what they were expected to do. A student shouldn't be lost just because they moved. It was really a waste of effort because all the states were doing the same thing, but not working together. The idea was once you had common standards, you could have common assessments, too."

In 2014, HB 1490 was filed, which called for a revision of the current standards in math, English, science and social studies, and required the department to create work groups made up of educators and parents to review those standards. The groups spent a year doing so, then the board was tasked with collecting feedback from the public, schools, academic researchers and lawmakers. Over 3,600 comments were considered before a final product was turned in Oct. 1, 2015.

"This is the end of about a two-year process," Potter said. "The biggest changes come in science and social studies, because they had not been updated for so long. It was a lot of fact memorization, and we're moving away from that into a more application-based approach. Instead of memorizing dates and events, it's about evaluating and analyzing these events. For science, we want to get more students actually doing science, encouraging their natural curiosity about the world, and have them learn the scientific process and application. It's really just a shift in what we're learning, and when."

Another change was bringing cursive writing back to classrooms.

"In kindergarten through fifth grade English Language Arts expectations, cursive writing was added back in," Potter said. "The previous standards said students should learn to 'write legibly.' If you look at most adult writing, it's a mix of printing and cursive. It's a debate for educators because it takes a lot of time to teach it, and with people moving more toward electronic typing. [Cursive] really more of an art form, because it looks different from style to style. So, cursive is back."

It will be up to each district to develop curriculum that follows the new standards.

"Next year is when they'll start to rewrite curriculums at the local level and [decide] how lesson plans will change," Potter said. "At the local level, they'll decide what strategies they'll use to get students where they need to be."

"The new Missouri Learning Standards will change our vertical alignment with all subjects," said Jill

LeCompte, assistant superintendent for Cassville schools. "We will work on that next year to make sure each

grade level subject area flows from one to another. I don't think the new standards will affect our students, as

the former standards were pretty rigorous already."

The new standards will be tested in spring of 2018, after districts have had enough time to implement the changes and develop new assessments to measure progress.

"It takes time for a district to revamp its curriculum and to decide if they need new materials," Potter said. "They're usually working with their curriculum directors to come together and to collaborate with the grade levels and subjects and how they're going to help students reach those goals."

That new standards are in step with the Top 10 by 20 initiative, which aims for student achievement in Missouri to rank among the Top 10 states by 2020. For more information about the standards, people may visit http://goo.gl/eQQQYX.

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