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JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Legislators are wading deeper into determining what Mississippi students will learn and how they will be tested.
The House of Representatives Thursday passed House Bill 385, which would ban use of a Common Core-related test, end high school exit exams in biology and U.S. history and push the state Board of Education to adopt standardized tests published by the ACT organization. It now moves to the Senate for more debate.
Earlier, the Senate Education Committee endorsed Senate Bill 2161, creating a commission to recommend changes to state academic standards as part of an effort to change or replace Mississippi's current Common Core-based standards.
The measures continue lawmakers' assault on Common Core, meant to provide national benchmarks while helping students learn more analytically and less by memorization. Opponents say it represents federal overreach. They also oppose the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers tests, because they're designed to assess Common Core and because the federal government helped pay to develop them.
Top Republican officials including Gov. Phil Bryant, Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves and House Speaker Philip Gunn of Clinton have swung against the standards, even as the state Board of Education and state Superintendent Carey Wright continue defending them.
Like the House bill, the Senate bill bans the state Board of Education from readopting the PARCC tests. Mississippi schools will administer PARCC this school year on an emergency contract. The state is seeking a new testing contract, and officials have said Pearson PLC, which wrote the PARCC tests, would be allowed to bid.
The House language was written by the state superintendents association, said House Education Committee Chairman John Moore, R-Brandon. It keeps high school graduation exams for algebra and English, but removes biology and U.S. history exams. It tailors requirements to benefit ACT, including requiring career-technical assessments such as the ACT WorkKeys tests.
District superintendents have been pushing to ditch the four graduation exams and adopt tests from ACT.
On the House floor, Brandon Republican Mark Baker said he knew of only two testing groups that meet the bill's requirements, one of which is Iowa-based ACT. He said later that the bill was intended to result in adoption of ACT tests.
Wright opposes changes to the state's current standards. She also wants to keep all four subject tests and doesn't want to ban Pearson from bidding.
The Senate Education Committee on Thursday approved Senate Bill 2161, creating a 27-member commission to recommend changes to the state Board of Education. It also bans the state from adopting standards developed outside Mississippi without a one-year comment period and public hearings.
"I wanted to make sure these were Mississippi standards set by Mississippians," said sponsor Videt Carmichael, R-Meridian.
Bryant has pushed Carmichael's proposals, which would let the governor appoint most commission members.
"While I would have preferred an immediate end to Common Core so students, families and teachers could begin preparing for Mississippi-based standards, this measure is the beginning of the end for Common Core in this state," Bryant said in a statement. "If the Legislature will provide me with the authority, I will ensure that we establish the highest academic standards."
Carmichael's bill was rewritten at the last minute. Parts of other bills were added, winning support from the Senate's leading Common Core critic, Sen. Angela Hill, R-Picayune.
"This is just thrown together literally here in the room to take over or weaken the powers of a constitutional board that exists," said Sen. David Blount, D-Jackson, saying senators shouldn't infringe on the Board of Education.
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