- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 13, 2015

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - The Missouri State Board of Education this week moved forward with plans to test schoolchildren using national Common Core educational standards, approving a new minimum standardized test score that will be used to determine students’ proficiency.

The decision on Monday comes even after lawmakers last year passed legislation aimed at nixing Common Core, which sets goals for what children should be learning in math and English in kindergarten through high school.

The board adopted recommendations from the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium on minimum scores used to rate students as proficient in math and English. The multistate consortium also developed the tests for Common Core, which Missouri students will take for the first time this spring.

Common Core standards have been a magnet for criticism across the U.S., with some parents and lawmakers arguing that they were adopted without enough local input. Supporters say the higher standards shared across state lines would allow for shared resources, comparable student performance measures and smoother school-to-school transitions for children who move, such as military kids.

Scores in Missouri likely will take a hit as students learn the new standards and get used to online testing, which is being used for the first time, said Michael Muenks, who coordinates curriculum and assessment with the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

“Generally speaking with new assessments performance goes down,” Muenks said. Scores increase “over time as teachers adjust instruction related to new standards.”

There are no estimates for how well Missouri children will perform on the test. Nationally, between about 30 and 40 percent of students in states with Common Core are expected to score at proficient levels based on field tests conducted in 21 states last spring.

About 53 percent of Missouri students last year tested as advanced or proficient in English and math.

Muenks said he predicts students will be more motivated this year and could perform at higher levels on the new assessment.

Some teachers are concerned about a potential drop in student scores, but many are more concerned about the logistics of administering an online test, Missouri State Teachers Association spokesman Todd Fuller said.

Fuller said rural districts in particular could struggle to coordinate lab time for testing students.

Muenks said schools this year will have an additional week to test students as leeway to work out any kinks with technology. He said the state has no way of tracking how prepared districts will be for the new test, but the education department has been working to expand bandwidth for the past two years.


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