State lawmakers are close to a deal that would keep the Common Core education standards in Missouri schools until a panel of teachers can review the nationally-crafted expectations.
Missouri is one of 44 states that signed on to use the Common Core in 2010. But as schools have aligned their teaching and materials to the new expectations, parents have pushed back. They're concerned the standards, which have been endorsed by the U.S. Department of Education, will mean a loss of local control for Missouri schools.
Earlier legislation would have repealed the Common Core and barred schools from continuing to implement the standards. A compromise would let Missouri schools keep the Common Core for now, but give the state an out if a panel of educators tasked with standards setting could recommend a better alternative.
Jay Atkins, a lobbyist for the Missouri Chamber of Commerce, calls it "transparency" legislation.
"This is going to give everybody in Missouri, all of the stakeholders, all the parents, the school districts, the legislators, the business community, all those folks that are interested in how we're educating our kids ... it's going to give all those folks the opportunity to have their say about whether the Common Core State Standards are right for Missouri," says Atkins, who would like to see Missouri keep the standards.
On the other side of the debate is parent Anne Gassel, co-founder of the Missouri Coalition Against Common Core. She supports the compromise.
"We've never wanted to leave districts in a lurch," says Gassel. "One of the things that the superintendents testified to is they've spent all this time and money on professional development. Parents should know that effort is not wasted. If they find that the professional development really works for them, they should be able to continue with that."
State would have two years to set new standards
But Atkins and Gassel disagree about the likely outcome of the review, which must wrap up in time for the 2016-17 school year.
"We will have Missouri standards at the end of this two-year process," says Atkins. "But the door is open – if what Missouri wants for Missouri standards include all those standards that are under the Common Core, Missouri can have those standards."
For her part, Gassel says the nationally-crafted standards are too flawed to earn the approval of Missouri educators.
"I don't believe once everybody has fully implemented them they're going to say, 'Wow, these are great standards,'" she says.
Majority of states still on board with Common Core
Of the 45 states that agreed to use the Common Core, just one has since backed out – Indiana.
Michael Cohen is president of Achieve, the non-profit organization that helped develop the standards.
"Indiana went through one to two years of uncertainty and turmoil and lack of clarity about what students would be expected to learn and what teachers would be expected to teach to end up pretty close to where they started from," he says.
Missouri lawmakers are expected to vote on the Common Core compromise before May 16, the last day of session. It would then head to Gov. Jay Nixon for his signature.