Over the past months, parents, educators, and other citizens
have been working together to draft a set of academic performance
standards for Missouri's school children. The main purpose of these
new academic standards is to help assure that, when students leave
school, they have the practical skills and knowledge they will need
to compete in the global economy.
The standards set clear and high expectations for what our
students should know and be able to do when they graduate from high
school. They emphasize not just knowledge but the ability to apply
knowledge and skills to real-world situations.
Setting high academic standards for our students is an old idea
dating back to our founding fathers. For example, Thomas Jefferson
championed the necessity of establishing academic standards, or
"purposes" as he called them, in a system of free public schools
throughout early Virginia.
Jefferson's push for academic standards fell by the wayside
because Virginia was not yet ready to embrace the concept of public
education. Today, we are fortunate to have crossed that bridge.
However, unlike many other states, Missouri has still not adopted
the academic standards that Jefferson recognized as so crucial to
successfully educating our young people.
The academic standards that Jefferson had in mind and the
"Show-Me Academic Performance Standards" we are developing here in
Missouri both reflect what I call a "Basics Plus" approach to
education. The acquisition of knowledge and the learning of skills
are the "basics." Their application - that is, the performance and
utilization of knowledge and skills in a "real- world" context - is
the "plus" that builds upon the basics.
Like Jefferson's proposed standards, the Show-Me Standards
explicitly emphasize the need for students to obtain a solid
foundation in reading, writing, math, science, history, geography,
and the arts. Our schools fail if they do not require students to
learn a great amount of substantive knowledge in each of these
But Missouri's standards, again like Jefferson's, also
recognize that simply demanding that students be able to recall
bits and pieces of information is not good enough. Success in adult
life requires more than quiz-show knowledge.
That's why Missouri's standards call for so much more. The
Show-Me Standards demand that students be able to analyze
information and ideas, communicate ideas effectively, perform
problem-solving tasks, and understand the obligations of
Let me give you a few specific examples of how the "Basics
Plus" approach works in the Show-Me Standards.
The first standard in the Communications section states that
students will acquire proficiency in "speaking and writing standard
English, including grammar, usage, punctuation, spelling, and