by Mike Ferguson
(St. Charles, MO) – It’s for the children!
That’s the rally cry on both sides of the debate when it comes to education issues in Missouri.
In November, Missouri Education Commissioner Dr. Chris Nicastro was interviewed on “Missouri Viewpoints” to discuss her views on pressing issues facing public education. Since she was interviewed for the entire program, the opposing side of the debate is highlighted for an equal amount of time this week.
Among the issues discussed is Common Core Education Standards, which Missouri is using in schools now. By this coming Fall, all public schools in the state will be using the approach to education. What that approach is remains the center of debate.
Supporters say it’s simply a set of expectations that puts all states – and all public school students in the country – on the same set of standards. They say that will help improve education and insist that local schools remain in charge of the curriculum.
Opponents of the system say it’s a top-down approach that dictates what is taught and, in some cases, even pushes liberal political views on school children.
Anne Gassel is with the Missouri Coalition Against Common Core, which continues to oppose the use of the system in the state.
“Some of the standards, especially in the lowest grades, are developmentally inappropriate. So, you’re asking kids at the very youngest ages, when they first get in to school, to do things that they’re not cognitively ready to do.
“That’s going to set those kids up for failure.”
As an example, Gassel points to math standards in the first and second grades that she says requires children to understand some algebraic concepts.
She calls the overall standards “…too much on the low end and very weak on the high end, on the high school side…”
Gassel’s organization has several action items listed on their website (listed below) regarding Common Core. While they work generally at the statewide level, the group wants supporters to work on the issues at the local school district level as well.
In other education matters, the Show Me Institute’s Dr. James Shuls says it’s time to rethink public education in general and the motivators that drive results in the classroom.
“From my mindset, more of a free market mindset, that happens by giving people choices, letting schools compete for students and allowing students to choose the schools that’s going to best meet their needs.”
That’s basically a call to reform the education system by making it less of a system and allowing market forces to drive education. To Shuls, that more individualistic approach will empower parents and students with more authority over education and increase accountability of schools.
“We haven’t discovered the one best method for teaching kids. We haven’t discovered the one best progression of learning for kids nor have we discovered the one best test. So, we should give people options and allow them to choose a school that’s going to best meet their needs.”
Shuls sums up his view of the difference between a market-based approach and the current approach to public education:
“What the market does, it says when schools are failing, let’s close them. What the traditional system does, it says when schools are failing, let’s keep them open as long as possible.”
That, according to Shuls, is what traps students in failing schools and harms their chances not just to get a solid education now but impacts their ability to succeed in college and in the workforce later.
On the web:
Previous “Missouri Viewpoints” program featuring Missouri Education Commissioner Dr. Chris Nicastro:
Missourians Against Common Core:
Show Me Institute: