The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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March 29, 2014

Common Core under attack from legislators, parents

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — More than an hour before the Missouri Senate Education Committee was to begin a hearing last week, the room was buzzing.

Activists and lawmakers had crowded into a hearing room for debate on an issue that has divided parents, teachers, school boards and others: Common Core.

One education official said it is an effort to “level the playing field” across the country as the economy becomes increasingly globalized.

Critics fear it could lead to less local control of schools, a dumbing down of standards, the sharing of personal student information and increased expenses for small rural districts.

The issue has caused an uproar around the country, as well as in Southwest Missouri, where at least two local boards of education — East Newton and Jasper — have already passed resolutions condemning Common Core.

The new standards put a greater emphasis on technical literature and analytical thinking, meaning more algebra introduced at an earlier age, for example, and a greater focus on nonfiction writing.

It is all part of the latest movement in education to get students ready for the work force or a college education.

“The kids from Ava will be competing with kids from Shanghai. We believe the education system in Missouri should ensure that they can do that,” said Missouri Commissioner of Education Chris Nicastro.

With that, admittedly, come “clear instructional shifts,” she said, including less emphasis on fiction.

“When I went to school,” she said, “you read certainly great works of literature, but there was not a lot of technical reading and writing.”

“What has happened in our society is with the advent of more technical knowledge and the need for greater problem-solving skills, the emphasis on STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), which is where most of the future jobs are going to be centered, the need for students to be able to read, understand and function in a nonfiction environment is very important,” she said.

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