Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What are standards, curriculum and assessments?
A: Standards
set the goals for what students should learn. Curriculum encompasses what is taught and how. Assessments determine how much a student has learned and whether he or she has achieved one or more standards. 

Q: Why is Mississippi transitioning to Common Core State Standards (CCSS)?
  • Mississippi voluntarily adopted Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in 2010 because they provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn so that teachers and parents know what they need to do to help them.
  • Consistent standards, also adopted by 44 other states and the District of Columbia, will provide appropriate academic benchmarks for all students at each grade level, regardless of where they live.
  • The standards incorporate the best and highest of previous state standards in the U.S. and are internationally benchmarked to the top performing nations around the world.
  • Students will learn the skills and abilities demanded by the workforce of today and the future. The standards emphasize critical thinking, teamwork and problem-solving skills.
  • The standards are grounded in college and career readiness.
Q: What can parents expect to see in the classroom?
A: In English language arts:
  • First, students will read challenging texts in every class. They will continue to read classic literature stories, and poems in English class, but they also will be challenged with studying and analyzing nonfiction texts in all subject areas. As a result, students will be prepared to read, analyze, and write about all types of texts at a higher level when they graduate from high school.
  • Second, students will be asked to use evidence from the text when writing papers or making oral presentations. In all classes, the standards will require students to not only read the text but dig deeper to support their arguments or research. As a result, students will be better prepared to support their arguments and decisions with evidence, not just opinion, whether they are in college or the workforce.
In mathematics:
  • First, students will work more in depth in fewer topics. In each grade level, the student’s teacher will cover fewer concepts than in the past but go into much more depth on each concept. This makes sure every student gains a full understanding before moving on to the next concept. As a result, students will gain a full and foundational understanding of mathematics before moving on to the next grade level.
  • Second, students will understand how math works and be asked to talk about and prove their understanding. Students will no longer just memorize formulas but will learn why a particular formula exists. As a result, students will learn critical foundational concepts and problem-solving skills in the early grades so they are prepared for higher levels of math.
  • Third, students will be asked to use math in real-world situations. They will learn strategies for solving problems they could encounter in life. As a result, students will gain critical thinking skills while in school that they can apply in postsecondary education and the workforce.

Q. Will teachers lose control of what and how to teach with Common Core?
A.
The standards simply establish a clear set of goals and expectations for students at each grade level. Teachers and school leaders will determine how the standards are to be taught and will establish the curriculum (textbooks, tools and materials), just as they currently do. This allows for continued flexibility and creativity.

Q: Why are the Common Core State Standards just for English language arts and mathematics?
A: These core subject areas teach the foundational knowledge upon which students build skill sets in other subject areas. Also, the English language arts standards address literacy across disciplines, including science, social studies, and technical subjects.

Q. What does the National Education Association (NEA) think of CCSS?
A.
The NEA, along with more national organizations and political leaders, has expressed support for CCSS. You can find a list of supporters here.

Q. I want to opt out of the Common Core for my child. How can I do this?
A.
The CCSS are the standards for learning English language arts and mathematics in Mississippi. It is not possible to opt your child out of learning these two key subjects that are central to the appropriate education of every child.

Adoption of CCSS 

Q. What was the process to adopt the new standards?
A.
Mississippi went through the same process it always does when adopting new academic standards. The Mississippi Board of Education opened the process for public comment before adopting the standards in August 2010.

Q. Was there any public notice given prior to adoption of CCSS?
Q. Was adoption of CCSS required to compete for a Race To The Top grant?
A.
Answers to the above questions can be found in interim state superintendent’s response to questions from the Mississippi Senate Conservative Coalition. From the MDE home page, go to Hot Topics at the bottom left of the page, and it will be the first item.

Q. Has there been any research to show that these standards will help students become college- and career-ready?
A.
When educators talk about standards, they must remember that different meanings can be applied to the term standards. The state determines academic standards–the goals for what students should learn—but local school districts may build on these standards. Local school districts choose the curriculum–what is taught and how it is taught–in each classroom, as well as resources needed for teaching and learning. Each teacher determines his/her own instructional strategies to help students meet the standards.  The standards, in and of themselves, are simply goal statements; it is what happens in the classroom that will impact student performance.

However, the proof of potentially different results is found in Mississippi’s past results. Historical data for Mississippi’s student outcomes show that every time Mississippi has raised the performance standards (or increased the rigor of statewide assessments) for student expectations, student results rose (often after an initial decrease due to the new standards). With the implementation of college- and career-ready standards and assessments to measure results, the education community in Mississippi will again rise to the challenge.

Q. What will Mississippi Common Core Standards mean to students and parents?
A.
With the CCSS, parents will know exactly what their children should learn by the end of each grade level. 

  • The new standards are more rigorous and students will be learning important concepts in earlier grades.
  • The Common Core shifts focus from high school completion to college- and career-readiness for every student.
  • When the standards are fully implemented, parents will see that each grade covers fewer topics, but teaches content in much greater depth.
  • Curriculum and assessments are evolving to align with the Common Core.
  • With the standards, parents can be assured that their children are learning to the same high-quality standards as other students across the country.
  • New tests will measure learning under CCSS. These tests will be more difficult, which will mean that statewide scores will probably be lower initially. 

Q. Will these standards impact other subjects students learn?
A.
English teachers will still teach their students literature as well as literary non‐fiction. However, because college and career readiness overwhelming focuses on complex texts outside of literature, these standards also ensure students are being prepared to read, write, and research across the curriculum, including in history and science. These goals can be achieved by ensuring that teachers in other disciplines are also focusing on reading and writing to build knowledge within their subject areas.

Q. Will private and home schools need to adopt CCSS?
A.
No. Private schools accredited by the MDE are not required to adopt CCSS.

Standards by Race 

Q. I heard that CCSS are applied differently to students based on race. Why do we have “race-based standards?”
A.
We have no race-based standards. Under a flexibility request for waivers from the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act, approved in 2012, the MDE has set expectations based upon students’ current performance levels, while still expecting all students to meet proficiency. Achievement gaps exist among students in Mississippi as well as nationally. This has no relation to Common Core State Standards.

The annual measurable objectives (AMOs) in the flexibility request outline a six-year plan to cut the achievement gaps in half for all subgroups of students, which includes English-language learners and special education students.  

Consider this analogy. Students from Brandon, McComb, and Corinth are all traveling to a conference in Jackson.  Each student group has two days to arrive at the meeting.  The students from Brandon must travel 5 miles each day to arrive, while the students from McComb must travel 40 miles each day, and the students from Corinth must travel 120 miles each day.  

The AMO table in the flexibility request simply provides a snapshot of the projected student progress academically, given each group's starting location.  Again, the ultimate destination is arrival at proficiency (or arrival in Jackson), but the incremental steps are different for each group of students, just like the daily distances traveled are different for each group of students in the analogy.

No Child Left Behind

Q. What is the connection between No Child Left Behind and CCSS?
Q. What is the impact of CCSS on No Child Left Behind?

A.
The major focus of No Child Left Behind, a reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), is to close student achievement gaps by providing all children with a fair, equal, and significant opportunity to obtain a high-quality education. It required each state to adopt academic standards and statewide testing that meets federal requirements.

The CCSS are goals for what students should know and be able to do in each grade. The state’s adoption of CCSS sets high, yet achievable goals for all students, and it fits with the NCLB’s requirement to provide a high-quality education for students.

Timeline 

Q. What is the timeline for implementation?
Q. When will tests aligned with CCSS be given?
A.
 The Mississippi Board of Education adopted a transitional timeline in May 2013 for accountability and assessments as the state transitions to CCSS.

Q. Is the federal government requiring Mississippi to adopt new standards?
A.
No. Mississippi voluntarily chose to adopt these standards in 2010. The federal government has not been involved in the process of developing or implementing these standards. Mississippi has not received any federal funding that requires the adoption of these standards.

CCSS-aligned Assessments 

Q. How will Mississippi students perform when tested against these new standards?
A.
Mississippi is on the governing board working to develop the next generation of assessments that will measure these higher academic standards, beginning spring 2015. We recognize these standards will require more of our students. States that have already implemented higher standards similar to these and measured their students’ performance for the first time saw the number of students scoring proficient drop. We can expect similar results here in Mississippi. It won’t be because our students are any less smart than they were before. It will be because we will be holding them to higher academic standards, which will ultimately benefit them and their future.

Q. Will the U.S. History test and Biology test still be required for graduation?
A.
Yes. State law requires students to pass four subject area tests (U.S. History, Biology I, Algebra I, and English II) to earn a diploma.

Q. With CCSS implementation, will failing districts get two more years before going into receivership by the state?
A.
No, state law has not changed regarding conservatorship for failing districts.

Q. How much time will students have to complete the assessments?
A.
Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) estimates that the time on tasks will vary by grade and subject matter for the various assessments. Estimates show that the student could take anywhere from 4-5 hours to complete an assessment in one content area. And while it is anticipated that most students will complete the test sessions within these estimated times, all participating students will have a set amount of additional time for each session to provide them with ample time to demonstrate their knowledge.   

Q. Will students in a particular class be given different test questions from each other based on their ability to answer questions based upon the complexity of other questions? Won’t this skew the test results in favor or lighter score?
A.
Students will not be given different test questions based on their ability to answer questions. Test questions will be based on the Assessment Blueprints and Test Specifications documents located in www.parcconline.org/assessment-blueprints-test-specs

For test security reasons, a variety of test forms will be used, but no version will be more difficult than the other. The tests will be comparable from a psychometric standpoint. 

Q. Will we still have to test SATP and PARCC next year?
A.
Students will continue to take SATP2 Biology I and U.S. History assessments during the 2014-2015 school year. Additionally, students who have not yet passed an SATP2 exam will continue to retest on those same assessments. The PARCC Algebra I and PARCC English II assessments will also be administered as required tests for graduation during the 2014-2015 school year.

Q. So far Oklahoma, Alabama and Georgia have withdrawn from assessments associated with CCSS. Has MS looked into this option? Why or why not?
A.
No. We believe that the PARCC assessments represent a good value for our state and that they will provide our schools with access to higher quality assessments than we could develop on our own for a similar cost.

Q. When will we know what the assessment is?
A.
The details of the PARCC assessments have been provided. A Performance Based Assessment (PBA) will be administered approximately three-fourths of the way through the school year. This assessment will focus on writing effectively when analyzing text for ELA/Literacy and applying skills, concepts, and understandings to solve multi-step problems for math.

A more traditional multiple choice End of Year Assessment (EOY) will be given towards the end of the year. This assessment will focus on reading comprehension for ELA/Literacy and conceptual understanding of the Major Content and Additional Supporting Content of the grade/course. For more information go to www.parcconline.org/3-8-assessments 

Q. Best teaching practices include providing examples. When will examples be provided for in-class assessments, lesson plan templates, etc.?
A.
Practice tests are tentatively scheduled to be released in the Spring 2014. Task item prototypes have been available for a year and are located at www.parcconline.org/samples/item-task-prototypes. New sample items were released on August 19, 2013. The Office of Curriculum and Instruction has provided grade band trainings for administrators and teachers since Fall 2010.

Over 15,000 educators have been trained through webinars. These webinars are located on MDE’s iTunes U site so that teachers can have continual access to them. The Southeast Comprehensive Center has created CCSS videos for mathematics and language arts for all grade bands for mathematics. More videos are being added weekly for language arts and mathematics and are located at http://secc.sedl.org/common_core_videos/index.php.

With regards to lesson plan templates, guidance has been provided for teachers from the Tri-State Quality Review Rubric for Lessons and Units. This rubric has been offered as guidance in all grade band teacher trainings.

Q. With all the explaining and essays required of students on the Common Core Test, how are they going to be graded?
A.
The hand-scored items will be scored by professionally trained scorers at a scoring center that will be contracted through PARCC like Mississippi has done with past performance assessments like the MAAECF and the former Writing Assessments in grades 4, 7, and 10. A certain number of items will be doubled-scored by different scorers as part of the quality control process.

Q. Is it going to cost more than grading a multiple choice test?
A.
Yes.  Performance-based assessments will cost more to score because of the use of human scorers.

Q. Is science going to be tested?
A.
Students will continue to take the existing MST2 in grades 5 and 8, and the SATP2 Biology I assessment.

Q. Will the only way the state will see that the state’s standards are met be through one single standardized test at the end of the year? And will this be the only data to measure if a school and/or district is successful?
A.
School and district accountability as reported using the legislatively mandated letter grades (a, B, C, D and F) will continue to based student performance on the following assessments:  English language arts / literacy and mathematics in grades 3-8; s

Q. Will our students be required to take more standardized tests as a result of Common Core?
A.
Yes and no.  Generally, students will continue to be assessed in the same subjects and grades that they are presently tested in today.  However, due to the nature of what we expect students to know and do in terms of the new standards, a next generation of assessment will be needed.  Students in Mississippi will now take a new performance-based component of the existing assessments. 

Q. How do we compensate for the CCSS to which current high school students have not been exposed but yet will be held accountable for when PARCC testing is implemented?
A.
Based upon a proposed implementation plan being considered, high students will only be responsible for assessments after two years of CCSS-based instruction.  All students should be taught in accordance with the CCSS for the 2013-2014 school year and the first high stakes assessments in English II and Algebra I will be offered in 2014-2015.

Q. What are we going to do about PARCC testing for districts that do not have the technology capacity or equipment necessary?
A.
In the instance that a school does not have adequate technology to conduct the PARCC assessments, a certification process will exist for districts to request paper-based tests.  These paper-based tests will cost approximately $5 more per student than the online assessments. It is possible that this cost increase will be paid by a reduced state allocation in offsetting the K-3 screener grant allocation.

Q. Isn’t this just more teaching to the TEST?
A.
No. The CCSS provide students the opportunity to engage in rigorous content requiring higher-order thinking and application of knowledge. The element of guessing has been reduced significantly because for many of the multiple choice questions the students will have to select more than one correct answer. Some questions will require the students to select 3 correct answers out of 7 possible answer choices.

“Teaching the test” entails providing students with similar problems that could appear on the assessments and teaching strategies on how to correctly answer the question. This technique will be extremely difficult to do on PARCC assessments because in order for students to correctly answer the questions, they must have a deep conceptual knowledge of the standards. This level of understanding can only be achieved by teaching and connecting the standards and allowing the students to make connections between the standards and being able to explain their mathematical thinking

Career and Technical Education 

Q. My child wants to enter a trade, such as plumbing or welding. How can he benefit from CCSS?
A.
Expectations should remain high for all students, regardless of their post high school plans. Mississippi has clearly articulated an expectation that all students graduate ready for post secondary AND direct entry into the workforce. Students not attending a four-year institution face equally challenging skills and knowledge requirements for successful entry into the workforce. All students should be prepared at high levels to thrive as engaged and productive citizens in our current economy.

Q. What resources are available for CTE educator to implement CCSS in classrooms?
A.
The Office of Career and Technical Education will provide training for CTE teachers on how to change teaching practice to implement CCSS in the classroom.  

State Longitudinal Data System (SLDS)

Q. It is claimed that Common Core does not require student data collection. What is the purpose of the State Longitudinal Data System?
A.
Common Core and the SLDS are two separate initiatives in Mississippi, both designed to increase student outcomes. Senate Bill 2371 of the 2011 Legislative Session established Mississippi’s Statewide Longitudinal Data System or SLDS as follows:

The system will allow stakeholders and policymakers access data on state residents from birth to the workforce to drive accountability and investment decisions. The system will include data from multiple state agencies and entities. The system will provide decision makers a tool to develop policies to support objectives, including, but not limited to
(a) Enabling Mississippians to secure and retain employment and receive better pay after completing training or postsecondary degrees;
(b) Enabling Mississippi to meet the education and job skill demands of business and industry;

(c) Developing an early warning system, which allows the state to intervene early, improving the graduation rates in high school and college;
(d) Identifying teachers, teaching methods and programs that lead to positive student outcomes; and

(e) Encouraging the sharing of electronic data across educational and other entities.

Q. Please explain “assessment of academics” and “mindsets” of students by gathering biometric and philosophical data for the state created longitudinal data system mandated by the federal government.
Q. Will RMRIs be used on our children to form a database? Will our children’s information be kept private?
Q. I am concerned with the data collection and the distribution of personal (identifiable) data to national and international, public, and provide organizations. I noticed not one handout mentions the 400 point database or the electronic data collection, via mouse, chair pads, cameras, etc. Please discuss the database and collections methods.

A.
MDE is not aware of any biometric and philosophical data being gathered through the state’s longitudinal data system. RMRIs, or retinal magnetic resonance images, are not a part of the student longitudinal database. Mississippi is committed to protecting the privacy of students and their families.

Q. Please list what data will be collected on Mississippi’s public school students. Can parents and students opt out of the collection and storage of personal information in education databases associated with CCSS? If so, what is the process? If not, why not?
A.
The data currently collected in the system includes data such as enrollment in courses, statewide assessment results, and other academic data that can be used to evaluate educational programming. The data are used as a cumulative record of the student’s progression through school, as required by state and federal law. 

Q. How will the “Mississippi Lifetracks” or SLDS be used to improve the education of the students?
A.
The data are used to evaluate educational programming, holding educators more accountable for timely student success.

 

Special Education 

Q. Where are we as a state with revising the alternate assessment for students with disabilities to align with Common Core?
A.
Mississippi is one of the 16 states participating in a consortium called the Dynamic Learning Maps. The Dynamic Learning Maps has been working on Essential Elements as the alternate curriculum to follow the alternate assessment. The Dynamic Learning Maps Essential Elements are specific statements of knowledge and skills linked to the grade-level expectations identified in the Common Core State Standards.

The purpose of the Dynamic Learning Maps Essential Elements is to build a bridge from the content in the Common Core State Standards to academic expectations for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities. The Dynamic Learning Maps Essential Elements are currently out for APA and will be presented to the State Board of Education in October 2013. 

Q. Will/have any accommodations been made for students with dyslexia/dysgraphia?
A.
The Office of Curriculum is researching the accommodations for students with dyslexia/dysgraphia to be utilized during the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) assessments. The PARCC Accommodations Manual is online for review now.

Q. How will Common Core affect autistic students or students with special needs or learning disabilities?
A.
Common Core will have a positive impact in that Office of Special Education is releasing a Standards Based IEP which will direct higher expectations for students due to the alignment of the standards.

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