Montana House panel eyes bills rejecting education standards promoted by federal government

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HELENA, Montana — A lawmaker introduced several bills seeking to revoke implementation of the federal Common Core educational standards in Montana and set new standards for state schools.

The hearing on the four bills by Rep. Debra Lamm, R-Livingston, lasted nearly seven hours and included divided testimony from more than 60 parents, teachers and education leaders, The Billings Gazette (http://bit.ly/1ALIy7r) reported.

Lamm told the House Education Committee on Wednesday that she believed there is a constitutional problem with the way Common Core came into the state and added: "The standards aren't that great."

The standards adopted by more than 40 states have become a political issue across the country as opponents say Common Core is driven by the federal government.

Proponents say the standards were created by a coalition of state educators and designed to ensure high school graduates are prepared for college or the workforce.

House Bill 377 would repeal the state Board of Public Education's 2011 approval of Common Core and establish a 16-member committee to create alternative standards.

House Bill 376 would prohibit schools from using an annual performance assessment that was developed out-of-state. Montana was among the states that reviewed and signed on to the Smarter Balanced tests.

House Bill 521 would prohibit the Board of Public Education from changing a school district's accreditation status or withholding funding if it refuses to implement the standards.

Legal notes attached to the bills note that the Montana Supreme Court has ruled lawmakers do not have the authority to remove duties from the Board of Public Education.

A fourth bill, House Bill 501, would require school districts to get written consent from parents in order to collect data from students, including results of standardized tests.

Supporters of Lamm's bills include Sandra Stotsky, a former state education official from Massachusetts who participated in the creation of the standards. She said the English/language arts component of the standards is inadequate.

Kari Zeier of Billings, state co-director of the Concerned Women for America, said, "It's time to stop playing politics and work together to create new educational standards by Montanans for Montanans."

Teachers and school administrators dismissed concerns about federal control and said the new standards have simply raised the bar for students.

"The standards provide the end goals that students must reach," said Evergreen Superintendent Laurie Barron. "Choices about what and how to teach the standards rest with classroom teachers, where they should."


Information from: The Billings Gazette, http://www.billingsgazette.com

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