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Standards Still Being Attacked

April 05, 1996
By: Joseph Morton
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - When it comes to the state's new ShowMe standards, it seems there are endless predictions about the effect they will have on Missouri's education system. Parents, state officials and politicians have prophesied everything from miraclous improvement to catastrophic harm.

Supporters of the standards say they will raise Missouri's education system to a whole new level, but opponents of the standards take a much dimmer view of their effect on education.

At a public hearing on the standards prior to their approval, one concerned individual, John Trimble, said the standards were "the next step in the destruction of Missouri's education system."

Such strong statements on both sides of the debate, may be good for sound bites and exciting the masses, but many educators say they are far from the realm of truth.

They maintain the standards don't represent imminent disaster or revolutionary improvement for Missouri education. On the contrary, they say, teachers have been using the ideas embodied in the standards for some time.

"A lot of schools are already doing these things," said Betty Preston, a member of the state Education Board. "These standards are just going to set the bar a little higher. They are a formal statement of what's going on."

Jim Friedebach, who is in charge of developing state assessments to accompany the standards, agreed that the standards' basic foundations are not completely new to Missouri education.

"The best teachers are doing these things in their classrooms now," Friedebach said.

Kent King, executive director of the Missouri State Teachers Association, said change will be limited under the new standards.

"Education's had something like this for 30 years; it comes and goes," King said. "A lot of time and effort did go into developing a more practical approach, and this is an attempt to raise standards. However, it isn't going to turn the world on its ear."

Those in the trenches of the education battle, teachers, also support such statements.

"The majority of teachers are trying new methods on their own," said John Maddux, a teacher in southwest Missouri.

Many educators say the problem of public perception arises from the language used in describing the new system.

"We've already made moves to do a lot of this," said Darline Schroeter, a teacher at Jennings Junior High School. "We're just giving it a new name."

Don Diveral, president of MSTA and a teacher of industrial arts, said some people are suspicious of the new standards because they are written in the language of professional educators, which can be as difficult to understand as the jargon used by lawyers and doctors.

"The problem is because just about everybody's gone through some part of the school system, they think they're an authority on the matter of education," Diveral said. "Once this is in place, they'll realize it's many of the same kinds of things as before."