Legislator says education standards likely to face no opposition in House

Bills that would block Common Core education standards from being implemented in Missouri could face a tough hurdle this year in the General Assembly.

Last week, as the Missouri State Board of Education met to hear both sides make their case, Steve Cookson, chairman of the House Education Committee, said that when a state is as reliant on federal funds for education as Missouri is, there is an expectation that some strings might be attached to that money.

When asked if he thought a bill that would bar implementation of the Common Core standards might have a chance in his committee or in the General Assembly, Cookson, R-Poplar Bluff, was hesitant.

“Unless it is quite evident that this is damaging students, the fact that it is pushing students — especially in certain grade levels — more rigorously is imperative,” he said. “It’s always been imperative that every generation we educate has to have more intelligence and be smarter than the prior generation. Sometimes we adults don’t like that change because of our own personal protective agendas. … In reality, for our society to keep moving forward and keep up with other societies, it’s important that our own people are more intelligent and smarter than we were.”

Cookson also said he believes Missourians are facing a lot of “misinformation and hyperbole” around the issue, but he added that he appreciated the interest given to the issue by opponents of the standards.

Sen. John Lamping, R-Ladue, one of the most vocal opponents of the Common Core standards, has reintroduced legislation aiming to bar the state or any individual district from implementing the standards, going as far as to say, “Any actions taken to adopt or implement the Common Core State Standards are void.”

Cookson’s remarks came on the day that State Board of Education officials met in Jefferson City to hear from proponents and opponents regarding what the standards will mean for students, teachers and parents.

Supporters of the beefed-up federal standards contend that they are good for education and will help the country as a whole compete in a global economy.

Cheryl Oldham, vice president of education policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and Brian Crouse of the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry said they support the Common Core standards because they would help improve education both in Missouri and across the country.

Opponents of the federal standards pointed to Karen Effrem, a pediatric expert specializing in early childhood learning, who led an hourlong presentation criticizing the standards. Effrem said the standards are too stringent for younger students from kindergarten through third grade and too lax for students in high school.

She also said there is little evidence that more standardized testing leads to more student success, and she said results of a kindergarten readiness test should not be part of a student’s permanent record.

Mary Byrne, co-founder of the Missouri Coalition Against Common Core, also spoke.

Peter F. Herschend, president of the State Board of Education, said he was happy to hear from Common Core’s opponents during the official meeting and would take their concerns into consideration.

“We want to do right,” he said. “I don’t care about Washington — this board cares a great deal about the kids of this state. We want to get it as right as we can. If we can make it better, the kids are the winners.”

Assistant Commissioner Sharon Helwig of the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education said Tuesday that most Missouri schools have already begun implementing Common Core State Standards in language arts and math.

And while 45 states have agreed to adopt Common Core standards, at least 13 of those states — Missouri included — have seen legislative efforts to block their implementation.

Common Core also has received some push-back from Southwest Missouri, and last fall the East Newton Board of Education approved a resolution challenging the state’s plan to begin using the new standards in the 2014-15 school year, and called on state education leaders and lawmakers to re-evaluate them.

While school boards in other states have adopted similar resolutions, the East Newton panel appears to be the first board in Missouri to have done so.


FULL IMPLEMENTATION of the Common Core State Standards is set for the 2014-15 school year.

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