In 2014 Missouri lawmakers passed HB 1490 that repealed the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and set up eight work groups, in English/Language Arts, Math, Science and Social Studies for elementary and secondary. The task of the work groups was to review and develop recommendations for academic standards for students. Parents and “educational professionals” were selected by state legislative leaders (such as the president pro tempore of the senate and the speaker of the house of representatives) to serve on this committee. The state department of education played only a logistical role in creating meeting space for the work groups. Many of the members of these committees had differing views about standards, which made their work more difficult. They found it challenging to find common ground, as some believed that CCSS was needed and necessary, while others believed that it should be abolished. Their work was due to the State Board by Oct. 1, 2015. From there, the Missouri Learning Standards were circulated for public comment; 3600 comments were made. These comments were reviewed and two rounds of changes have been made. The State Board will vote on these new Learning Standards in April of 2016.
The following highlights some of the changes in the new ELA Learning Standards:
- Added cursive handwriting to K-5;
- In grades 6-12 there is less emphasis on “close reading” than in CCSS, and more emphasis on approaching texts as a reader (comprehending and interpreting); as a writer (analyzing craft and structure); and as a researcher (synthesizing ideas from multiple texts);
- Added drama and poetry at the secondary level;
- Correlated coding between K-5 and 6-12. (These two groups did not meet together, so the articulation came after the fact.)
If the Board approves these standards, they must be put in place by the 2016-17 school year. No matter how exemplary or poor the new standards are this move leaves teachers, who have just completed aligning curriculum and materials to the CCSS, to once again make immediate changes in their ELA curriculum. As these standards change, will schools be urged, required or tempted to purchase new aligned materials? Even though the curriculum will be in various stages of implementation, testing will be aligned with the new standards for the 2017-18 school year. How will Missouri’s students do on the latest tests over a brand-new curriculum? These additional changes make it difficult for schools or districts to engage in longitudinal analysis to document their students’ performance over time.