Missouri student testing efforts drawing headlines

Efforts to implement more rigorous student testing standards were back in the spotlight after a recent Missouri court ruling.

On Feb. 24, Cole County Circuit Judge Daniel Green ruled against Missouri’s collaboration with 30 other states to implement new testing standards called for by the Common Core initiative. At issue are the fees Missouri had budgeted to pay the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, a group working to develop student tests for the 31 member states..

Judge Green said the payments would be an “unlawful interstate compact to which the U.S. Congress has never consented.”

The U.S. Constitution says that without approval from Congress, “no state shall enter into an agreement or compact with another state.” The Common Core was created by the National Governor’s Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers with the help of teachers, education experts and parents. While Common Core was not created by Congress or the federal government, more than $350 million in federal funds have been used to develop the assessments, which are being rolled out this school year in Missouri.

Following the ruling, the Missouri Department of Secondary Education, which has been collaborating with the Smarter Balanced consortium, said department leaders expect this spring’s statewide tests will still take place. The education department did not rule out further legal action.

“The department’s general counsel is reviewing the ruling and considering our legal options,” said an education department news release.

The ruling will also impact ongoing work on the state’s budget. Missouri House Speaker John Diehl, a Republican from Town & Country, said he would direct his House colleagues to defund $4.5 million budgeted for Smarter Balanced payments.

“The House will act immediately to strip all (Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium) funding from the budget with the goal of ending our membership with this group that is in clear violation of the federal and state constitutions,” said Diehl, in a statement. “The people of Missouri have made it clear they have a distaste for Common Core and that they do not want to see their tax dollars wasted on these federally-produced standards.  Going forward, we will continue to focus our efforts on developing Missouri-based standards that will best serve the needs of our young people.”

In 2014, the Missouri General Assembly passed a law that creates a commission to study the Common Core standards. This commission is charged to make a recommendation in 2016 as to whether Missouri should continue implementing Common Core or create a separate testing standard.

On March 2, the Missouri House Committee on Elementary and Secondary Education met to discuss House Bill 742, which would add clarity to how the Common Core study group should operate.

The discussion over how Missouri should move forward with more rigorous testing comes as Missouri businesses are struggling to find the workforce they need. In 2014, the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry commissioned a Gallup survey of more than 1,000 business leaders which showed that only 15 percent of businesses believe Missouri’s high school graduates are prepared for the workforce.

The Missouri Chamber has made improving workforce preparedness a key component of Missouri 2030, the Chamber’s newly-released, 15-year strategy for economic growth. Read the plan at www.mo2030.com.

“The business community believes that Missouri needs to act soon to implement more rigorous testing standards to challenge our students and improve our state’s workforce,” said Jay Atkins, Missouri Chamber general counsel and director of governmental affairs. “The Missouri Chamber continues to support the Common Core and all efforts to improve our educational system

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About mochamber

The Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry understands that the quality of life in our state depends on quality jobs for Missourians. To that end, we have one simple mission: to protect and advance Missouri business.

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