HB 377: attack on Montana’s academic standards

February 5, 2015 / Comments (0)



House Bill 377 (Sponsored by Debra Lamm, R-Livingston) is a direct attack on Montana’s academic standards for math and English. And it’s unconstitutional. 

What HB 377 does:

HB 377 throws out Montana’s current academic standards for math and English. The bill dictates that Montana’s Board of Public Education set up a whole new standards review council to create a whole new set of standards.

Why HB 377 is a bad idea:

1. HB 377 hurts our children’s education. Montana’s math and English standards (also called Montana’s Common Core Standards) were carefully researched and designed to help all our kids learn at higher levels and reach their potential. The standards are working well!

2. HB 377 is a huge waste of time and taxpayers’ money. Hundreds of Montana educators, school board members, and other community members have worked hard over the past several years to research, review, and implement Montana’s math and English standards.

HB 377 would take all that work, throw it out the window, and require that it all be done over – costing more taxpayer dollars and more time, and leaving students in limbo.

3. HB 377 is completely unconstitutional. Montana’s constitution gives the Board of Public Education the authority to determine how standards are set, NOT the legislature.


Montana’s math and English standards are made-in-Montana. They are based on the Common Core Standards that many other have adopted (more on that below), and they are tailored especially for Montana’s students. They help parents and educators make sure children are learning at higher levels, no matter where they live.

The standards are not a curriculum. They are a set of clear, shared goals and expectations for what knowledge and skills students should master at each grade level. Curriculum is determined locally.

About academic standards: Montana has always had standards. They are like guidelines that help parents, teachers, and schools see what students should know and be able to do in every grade. Montana’s Board of Public Education sets our state’s academic standards.
Our academic standards are updated every few years, to keep up with changing times. Whenever the Board of Public Education updates the standards, it works closely with teachers school administrators, and other education experts from across Montana.

The Board of Public Education held 12 public meetings across Montana over two years before it voted to adopt Montana’s Common Core Standards in 2011, on the recommendation of Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau.

Who supports Montana’s Common Core State Standards?

• Montana PTA (Parent Teacher Assoc.)
• 80% of Montana teachers, including our top teachers (see below)
• Many Montana business leaders
• Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau
• Montana teachers’ union: MEA-MFT
• Montana School Boards Association
• School Administrators of Montana
• Montana Rural Education Assoc.
• Montana Board of Public Education
• Montana Assoc. of School Business Officials
• Montana Quality Education Coalition

Montana’s top teachers support Montana’s Common Core Standards:
• Twenty-two Montana Teachers of the Year signed a letter in support of Montana’s Common Core standards in 2013. The letter was printed in many Montana newspapers.  

• In 2014, 25 of Montana’s top math and science teachers signed a similar letter supporting Montana’s Common Core Standards. These teachers have all won the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science & Math Teaching.

Why do so many people support Montana’s Common Core Standards?
• Montana’s Common Core Standards allow parents to know how their child is doing in school, whether they are staying on track for their grade level. 
• The standards are more challenging for students than the previous standards, so students will be better prepared for college, careers, and life. 

• They preserve local control. Local educators and school board members map out curriculum. The standards tell schools what concepts and skills they need to teach in each grade – but they don’t tell schools or educators HOW to teach these concepts and skills, what textbooks to use, etc. That’s decided locally. Montana’s constitution leaves curriculum development to local school districts. Teachers are free to create lesson plans and tailor instruction to the individual needs of their students. 

• Montana’s Common Core Standards provide skills students need for the 21st century: such as problem-solving, analytical thinking, and communication.

• They bring back the joy of teaching and learning by giving teachers more flexibility and creativity. More focus on real-world learning, less focus on testing. 

• They help students who move out of Montana, and students who move into Montana, start their new school with the skills and knowledge they’ll need to stay at grade level.  

Where did the Common Core Standards come from?
• The idea to have high-quality math and English standards that are similar state-to-state came from state governors and chief state school officials like Montana’s Denise Juneau.

States across the country collaborated with teachers, researchers, and leading experts to design and develop the Common Core State Standards. They were developed by building on the best state standards in the United States; examining the expectations of other high-performing countries around the world; and carefully studying research on what students need to know and be able to do to succeed in college, career, and life. 
• Montana tailored the Common Core Standards specifically for Montana students.
• Common Core is not part of any federal program or mandate. Each state made its own decision about whether to adopt the standards.  

• Montana was the last of 46 states to adopt the standards, because Montana’s education leaders wanted to make sure they were right for Montana students. Educators, business people, and others across the state helped review the standards.

Why do some people oppose the Common Core Standards?
• When you look at who opposes the standards in Montana and nationally, it reads like a “who’s who” of the individuals and groups that constantly try to discredit public schools in their attempt to get tax dollars for private schools. These individuals and groups have tried to demonize the Common Core Standards, spreading misinformation and mistrust.  

• Some states that adopted the Common Core Standards rushed into it and made some mistakes — like New York. But Montana isn’t New York. Montana did it right – involving many educators and community members in the process. Montana made sure our standards are right for OUR children. And Montana didn’t focus on high stakes testing, like some other states did.

Want to see Montana’s Common Core Standards for yourself? Download the “Montana Content Standards” app. You can see all standards for all grades.

Here’s an example of one of the English standards for Grade 5: Reading-Literature; Key Ideas & Details – “Determine a theme of a story, drama, or poem from details in the text, including how characters in a story or drama respond to challenges or how the speaker in a poem reflects upon a topic. Summarize the text.”

More information on Montana’s standards available at the Montana Office of Public Instruction: opi.mt.gov/Curriculum/montCAS/MCCS/index.php

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