By Collin Reischman
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Lawmakers remain divided over implementation of the Common Core Standards Initiative, the new education curriculum standards designed by the National Governors Association and adopted by the state during 2010.
Bahr, who sits on the House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee, said he has “numerous concerns,” about the implementation of the standards, which currently are set to be adopted in-full by the end of the 2014-15 school year. In an interview with The Missouri Times, he said his concerns are about the implementation of the standards, the implementation process, the cost, and the potential effects on “state sovereignty” the new curriculum could bring.
“The estimated cost is almost $150 million just to get enough infrastructure in these rural neighborhoods to allow all their children to take their tests online,” Bahr said. “[The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education] can’t create a bill and then tell us to pay it. The legislature distributes funds, we have the power of the purse.”
Bahr said new assessments, adopted with the curriculum, had to be taken online and would burden rural communities who could not provide enough computers or even bandwidth to test their students. He noted that the assessments, not the curriculum itself, concerned him the most.
“How you do on a test is not always an indicator of a child being ingenious or not,” Bahr said. “Common Core was ultimately written by test creators, not educators.”
Ann Jarrett, Teaching and Learning Director of the Missouri National Education Association, said there were concerns about the technology required by rural schools to administer the assessments, but said the tests themselves are “far superior” to previous methods and would be the only valuable way to test the effect of Common Core standards.
“You can’t change standards without changing the assessments,” Jarrett said. “These assessments are designed to be more in-depth, to measure critical thinking and give a more accurate understanding of where a child is in his or her education.”
Jarrett said many districts had already begun transitioning into Common Core and that some were fully implementing it already. She emphasized that changing or ceasing the initiation of Common Core now would “throw the system into chaos.”
Some legislators, like Rep. Rocky Miller, R-Osage Beach, support the new curriculum and the new assessments, but are seeking a compromise by making implementation optional on the district level.
“I think the tests, as well as the new standards, I think they’ll certainly improve education in the state,” Miller said. “But we have to be wary of going to far and I’m big on local control.”
Miller, former director of the Missouri School Board Association and former member of the School of the Osage Board of Education, said the requirements for electronic testing could strain rural districts, and the form of testing should be optional.
Bahr’s bill was voted do pass out of the Downsizing State Government Committee and has been reported to the House Rules Committee, where it is not yet scheduled for a hearing.