- Associated Press - Monday, October 27, 2014

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - The process of creating learning standards, not what those standards should be, dominated a public hearing Monday on a review of education goals for Missouri elementary and secondary schools.

Parents and educators criticized how work groups are revising guidelines for student learning in each grade during a packed meeting with the State Board of Education.

Missouri currently uses the national Common Core benchmarks for what students should learn in each grade.

Lawmakers in May passed a toned-down version of legislation which opponents of Common Core designed as a way to phase out the learning goals. Instead of completely eliminating the standards adopted by 45 states to create consistent standards across state lines, the law requires they be reviewed.

The work groups have until October 2015 to make a recommendation to the State Board of Education on what Missouri’s learning standards should be.

But some members have struggled to reach a compromise. Tensions and infighting marked some of the initial meetings, particularly among work groups revising math and English standards in Common Core.

The State Board of Education will ultimately decide whether to keep Common Core or implement new standards.

Many who spoke during the hearing were work group members, and advocates both for and against Common Core expressed frustration with the review.

The process especially matters to Common Core opponents who have slammed the State Board of Education for adopting them in 2010 without enough input from lawmakers and parents.

“Parents do need to have a voice and maintain a voice in the education of their children,” said parent Julie Thomas of Lake Ozark, who was appointed by House Speaker Tim Jones to review social studies standards for middle and high school students.

Some residents and work group members criticized the education department’s involvement in the review, while others asked to keep divisive politics out of the process.

“We have a great opportunity right now to have lots of voices be heard, but it’s really tough because there’s a strong political agenda driving this force,” said Pam Hedgpeth, who was hired by the education department to facilitate the elementary school English standards review but was asked by the group not to assist.

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