Joint education committee prepping for scholarship evaluations, common core presentations

  

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Missouri’s Joint Committee on Education is preparing for a pair of summer meetings addressing both the state’s various college scholarship programs and the work groups created to develop new education standards in place of common core.

On July 21, the Joint Committee on Education will review a yearlong analysis of the state’s various scholarship programs for public universities. Sen. Gary Romine, the committee vice chairman, told The Missouri Times that he commissioned the evaluation to examine the “return on investment” Missourians were getting from higher education.

“If say the Bright Flight fund is retaining our best students here and those students are staying here in Missouri for their employment, that’s money well spent,” Romine said. “We’d like to have more data on those dollars and how it’s benefiting our state.”

Romine said lawmakers needed as much information as they could get on how scholarships to students potentially benefited the state economically when making budget decisions and other considerations.

In August, the committee meets again to discuss potentially sweeping changes to Missouri’s education standards. Last year, Missouri lawmakers passed a bill that Gov. Jay Nixon signed that supporters said would block implementation of “common core” standards in the state. HB 1490 requires the state board of education to convene work groups of education professionals to develop and recommend new academic standards to the committee and the board by October of 2015.

The success of the work groups has varied heavily. In some areas, there appears to be general consensus on recommending new standards. But some groups have broken down completely. A group looking at standards for upper level English education fractured completely into two groups, only one of which is “officially” recognized by the state board, even though they both continue to meet. Some groups have seen members change due to serious disagreements over new education standards.

Rep. David Wood, chairman of the joint committee, said that while some groups have been dysfunctional, they have overshadowed the relatively smooth workings of most of the working groups.

Wood invited the chair of each work group to the August meeting to essentially give the committee a “general idea” about the standards they plan to recommend in October.

“If we drastically change standards and everything, you’re looking at a significant burden for our teachers,” Wood said. “So we need to come together and talk about what is coming, have a united front, and see where they are at in the process.”

While the state board is not obligated to accept any of the work group recommendations, Wood said the ones that ran smoothly would likely be given “serious consideration.”

“The workgroups that are more dysfunctional and don’t come up with a workable product, there’s no way to take that into consideration,” Wood said. “[The state board] isn’t going to take a piecemeal approach, they won’t spend a lot of time picking and choosing from those. The committee’s that were functional I think will present some standards the board may very well adopt.”

Wood emphasized that the work groups were merely recommending standards, not reading lists, testing methods, or writing curriculum for schools. Wood said the committee would hear from the work groups as well as from DESE, but likely would not be taking public comments.

“I’d rather be proactive than reactive,” Wood said.

Collin Reischman is the Managing Editor for The Missouri Times, and a graduate of Webster University with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism. To contact Collin, email collin@themissouritimes.com or via Twitter at @CMReischman