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Curriculum Standards Move Forward

October 19, 1995
By: L. MEGHAN HUMPHREYS
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY _ Missouri's Board of Education took another step in the long process to set curriculum standards for Missouri public schools.

The board Thursday approved for public comment a draft set of standards called "Show Me Standards."

Because of state requirements covering adoption of administrative rules, the board will not be able to adopt the final standards until sometime in early 1996 - after the board holds public hearings on the proposal.

The state board does not expect to take final action on the standards until August of 1996.

Each local school district would then have one year to adopt a curriculum that follows the standards, said Orlo Shroyer, an assistant commissioner in the Education Department who helped to write the standards.

Although most comments by the board on the standards were favorable, Board President Peter Herschend said there will be some drawbacks to the new standards.

"I'm confident there are some mistakes or some things we have not included [in the standards]," Herschend said.

Herschend also pointed out the big changes ahead for teachers in Missouri public schools.

"These standards will require a significant change in the way teachers teach, and in the way teachers are taught to teach," Herschend said.

Students will be tested more on how they can apply what they know, rather than rote memorization of facts. This will require teachers to devise tests that challenge students to understand concepts rather than just repeating back what they learn in class, Herschend said.

Betty Preston, a board member, said she showed the proposed standards to some of her colleagues at a conference for school boards from across the nation in Pittsburgh last week. She said she saw positive reactions.

"As they saw [the standards], they were very, I think, envious," Preston said.

But the whole approach to imposing statewide curriculum standards on local school districts has generated considerable controversy within Missouri.

Critics have charged the standards are an infringement on the autonomy of local schools and de-emphasize teaching of basic skills in math, reading and writing.

But Iris Roberts, a Jefferson City High School teacher who helped to write the standards, said local school districts will maintain their prerogative to set their own curricula.

"No one intends for these guidelines to substitute local curriculum," Roberts said.

But the standards' supporters reminded the board there is still much work to be done before the standards can be put into action.

Shroyer said after the public-comment period, he will present "frameworks" for the different standards to the state school board. Frameworks are outlines of classroom activities for all different grade levels and subjects.

Missourians can see the proposed standards before December if they have a connection to the World Wide Web. The Education Department established a web site where the public can read the standards. The web site also gives the e-mail address of Orlo Shroyer so the public can comment directly.

The Web Site address is http://services.dese.state.mo.us/standards/

The e-mail address of Orlo Shroyer is oshroyer@mail.dese.state.mo.us