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Stage Set for Two-Year Common-Core Tussle in Missouri

Missouri is poised to become the second state to undo its adoption of the Common Core State Standards, after it sent a conference version of House Bill 1490 to Gov. Jay Nixon Thursday. But what exactly will Missouri do if Nixon, a Democrat, signs the legislation into law? Like what unfolded in Indiana, it's more complicated than simply saying the state is "dropping the common core."

As Joe Robertson of the Kansas City Star put it, the legislation represents a sort of "great compromise" on the common standards. How so? Lawmakers have tried to block the common core altogether through various bills over roughly the past year. This legislation, however, requires the development and adoption of new standards for the 2016-17 academic year. Until that time, the common core will remain in place in Missouri schools. (I rang up the Missouri education department for comment, and will add it when I hear back.)

So who will develop those new standards? The bill requires new "work groups" to create and recommend standards to the state school boards. These work groups will cover the common-core subjects of English and math, along with science and history and governments.

Each work group, in addition to representing the "geographic diversity" of the state, must include four K-12 parents (two picked by the Senate president and one by the speaker of the House); three education professionals chosen by the governor, lieutenant governor, and commission of higher education; an education professional selected by the state school board; and one education professional selected by the state teachers' unions; and others. 

The state board will have to hold three public hearings on the standards as this process unfolds. The board has to convene these work groups by October 2014, and the groups in turn have to present recommended standards to the board by October 2015. 

You may have noticed that nothing in this bill outright prohibits Missouri from using the common core in 2016-17. If that sounds familiar, it should—when Indiana developed its own English and math standards over the past several months, nothing prevented the state from readopting large portions of the standards from the common core. In fact, according to some experts, that's essentially what Indiana did roughly three weeks ago.

So to what extent will Missouri end up simply rehashing the common core? That depends on the work groups, which are constituted differently than the panel that came up with Indiana's new standards. Keep in mind that there are similar bills in Oklahoma and South Carolina that require new standards to be cooked up, but don't require the common core to be banished altogether. It's possible that Indiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, and South Carolina will all formally "unadopt" the common core, giving common-core opponents prima facie victories to trumpet, and yet end up with standards looking strikingly similar to the common core. 

Speaking of anti-common-core efforts, I'll have to see if Nixon actually signs the bill before updating my common-core bill tracker that follows pushback to the standards in state legislatures. But check out the tracker if you want, and let me know if you think I'm missing any relevant bills. 

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