When an Olympic high jumper wants to reach new heights, he doesn’t leave the bar where it is and expect to meet that goal. To be competitive with other high jumpers, he must raise the bar.
That’s exactly what Common Core State Standards will do. They will set a high –yet reachable – bar for our students. They will ensure that Mississippi’s children are equipped with the knowledge and skills needed to thrive in both college and career and compete in a global economy.
The standards are not federally mandated. Mississippi, along with 45 other states, voluntarily adopted the standards. The state has never relinquished control of public education to the federal government, and local school boards retain their same level of authority as they had prior to the adoption of the standards in 2010.
The standards were not developed hurriedly. They were developed by a thoughtful and transparent process led by the National Governors Association (NGA) and Council for Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). The process relied on teachers, experts from across the country (including Mississippians), and feedback from key stakeholders and the general public. NGA and CCSSO received nearly 10,000 comments in response to the draft standards, which were incorporated into the final standards. Before the Mississippi Board of Education adopted the standards, they were discussed in various public forums and released for public comment as part of the Administrative Procedures Act process.
Common Core draws from the best existing education practices in the country and is benchmarked to the top performing nations around the world, ensuring that Mississippi’s students are well prepared to compete with their peers abroad for the jobs of the future. This means our students will be held to the same high standards that are in place in Florida, North Carolina, Maryland, Massachusetts, and Louisiana. No longer will our students’ academic opportunities be hindered by their ZIP code.
The standards reflect the real-world expectations of what is necessary for students to succeed in postsecondary education and the workforce, including critical-thinking, problem solving, and effective communication skills. To this end, Common Core State Standards were developed using evidence that includes scholarly research; surveys on what skills are required of students entering college and workforce training programs; and assessment data identifying college and career-ready performance, among other data.
By adopting these standards, Mississippi will be on track with national college and career readiness exams. The nation currently monitors the math and English language arts achievement of a sample of 4th, 8th, and 12th graders on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). That exam is closely correlated to Common Core standards. Also, the ACT exam is being revised to reflect the standards.
The standards are not a curriculum. Rather, they are a set of goals that outline what students should be able to know and do in each grade in English and math. Decisions about how to teach the standards, such as curriculum, tools, materials and textbooks, are left to local decision-makers who know their students best.
The Mississippi Department of Education and school districts across the state have invested time and resources in preparing teachers and administrators for the standards. The MDE has trained more than 4,800 teachers on the standards through a series of 45 regional professional development sessions, in addition to providing training and information through several webinars, conferences and meetings across the state.
I believe that if we raise expectations, our students and educators will rise to meet those expectations. The standards, supported by legislative leadership and adopted by the Mississippi Board of Education, clearly embody what parents, students, educators, legislators and the business community have demanded: an improved education system that prepares students for college and the workforce.
Beware of Common Core State Standards? Beware if Mississippi retreats from its commitment to Common Core. These standards are a critical step forward in providing all of Mississippi’s students with the first-rate education they deserve.