Common Core State Standards

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As August approaches and the back-to-school mindset takes hold, schools and parents typically wonder how students did last year and what adjustments may be needed when classes resume.

For Missouri schools, some of those answers are delayed this year. Even when they are available, their meaning won’t be clear, and that uncertainty is likely to persist for many years to come.

Peter Herschend
DESE website

JEFFERSON CITY -- When Peter Herschend joined the Missouri state Board of Education in 1991, schools in the state were rated in three ways – A, AA or AAA.

But the rankings weren’t based on detailed accounts of how well students were doing in the classroom. Instead, Herschend noted in a recent interview, the factors that went into the classification ranged from salary structure to secretarial personnel to how many fire escapes the buildings had.

Computer keyboard
frankieleon | Flickr

As Missouri schools head into the heart of standardized test season, with new exams given in new ways, state education officials are checking closely to see if districts will make the grade.

For students in grades 3-8, this year’s Missouri Assessment Program, the MAP tests, in English and math are different in two ways. First, pencil-and-paper answer sheets have given way to computerized exams. Second, the tests are based on the Common Core standards, which will be in force while work groups devise new Missouri-based standards to replace them.

St. Louis Public Schools

When the Missouri General Assembly convenes next month, education will take its usual place as the center of concern for many lawmakers. Here are some of the bills that have been pre-filed for the upcoming legislative session.

Student transfers

Dale

JEFFERSON CITY -- Compared with the clamor and criticism that has accompanied the debate over Common Core State Standards in recent months and years, Monday’s hearing into the topic by the state board of education was positively tame.

St. Louis Public Schools

As Missouri’s state board of education gets ready to hold the first of three mandated hearings on new standards for public schools, members of the groups charged with writing the standards say politics is starting to take a back seat to education.

Marshall Griffin/St. Louis Public Radio

Members of eight work groups tasked with crafting new education standards to replace Common Core in Missouri appear to be still divided over the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education's involvement in the process.

Flickr/mrsdkrebs

Americans don’t fare that well when it comes to understanding how their government works. 

For example, 35 percent of Americans couldn’t name a single branch of the U.S. government and 20 percent thought a 5-4 Supreme Court decision is sent back to Congress for reconsideration.

That's according to a survey released last week by the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania.

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Depending on whose opinion you get, this week’s initial meetings to draw up new school standards for Missouri students were a “Common Core cheerleading session” or a strong-arm attempt that was “hijacked by political extremists” on the right.

Either way, the eight committees impaneled under a law passed earlier this year appear to have a long way to go to meet a deadline of having the new standards ready for approval a year from now.

DESE website

As she moves toward her retirement after more than five years as Missouri’s commissioner of elementary and secondary education, Chris Nicastro has definite thoughts about what she got done, what she would have liked to accomplish and what her successor needs to bring to the job.

She also – after just a slight hesitation – has a pretty good idea of how, as a teacher, she would grade her tenure in Jefferson City.

“Oh …. probably a C-plus,” she said during a wide-ranging interview this week at the Wainwright state office building downtown.

So you’re a tough grader?

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Though the national Common Core state standards will still be used to test Missouri students for the current school year, the process to replace them with standards written by Missourians has begun.

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education said Friday that groups designated to come up with the new Missouri Learning Standards, as set up by legislation signed by Gov. Jay Nixon in July, will begin meeting later this month in Jefferson City.

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Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed on Monday a bill that would have allowed teachers to carry guns in the classroom, saying that ““arming teachers will not make our schools safer.”

Flickr

Updated at 9:35 a.m. Monday with clarification on tuition rates, link to final bill text.

Two bills passed by Missouri lawmakers this week would have a significant impact on how and what students in the state are taught – if the legislation escapes a veto by Gov. Jay Nixon.

And that doesn’t include the financial impact the governor says will occur because of the tax-cut bill that the House and Senate passed into law over his veto earlier this month.

knittymarie / Flickr

Can schools cut back sharply on the number of tests that students have to take and still get a good idea of how well they are learning?

The state of Missouri is about to find out.

Missouri's state board of education has reduced the testing schedule dramatically — just a few months after approving a spending request for a testing schedule that would have had third graders taking seven hours of standardized tests each year, and high schoolers taking nine exams in four different subjects.

JEFFERSON CITY -- Missouri has already adopted and begun to implement the Common Core State Standards,  but a group of diehard opponents urged the state board of education Tuesday to follow what they said is the lead of other states and reconsider.

Mo. Dept. of Elementary and Secondary Education

A Missouri House subcommittee is considering whether to approve more money for student assessment tests under the new Common Core State Standards.

The standards are designed to put in place common nationwide achievement goals in math and language arts.  Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Chris Nicastro told committee members Tuesday that implementing the Common Core in Missouri has not cost the state any additional money, but that measuring student performance under the new standards will.

Missouri NEA

Chris Guinther is wrapping up her final month as President of the Missouri chapter of the National Education Association. She’s led the teachers’ union since 2007, and will return to the classroom full-time at Francis Howell schools in St. Charles.  St. Louis Public Radio’s Marshall Griffin sat down with Guinther recently, where she talked about the challenges she says are facing Missouri’s public schools:

Some good news that reflects positively on Missouri’s public schools

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The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) is moving forward with fully implementing new standards in Missouri’s K-12 schools for teaching math, English and language arts.

Spokeswoman Sarah Potter says the new standards are based on those crafted by the Common Core State Standards initiative.

“The standards say what students should know and be able to do by the end of each grade level to be on track for success in college and career,” Potter said.