Mississippi renews commitment to Common Core

Mississippi renews commitment to Common Core

(Miss.) The Magnolia State took another big step toward full implementation of Common Core this month when its state Board of Education approved spending $8.4 million on standardized tests aligned to the new curriculum standards.

The board voted earlier this month to enter into a contract with a division of the British publishing and education firm Pearson PLC, developer of the new assessments for a consortium of states known as the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers.

Mississippi is a member and governing state in the PARCC consortium.

“These standards are very clear and they are focused on college- and career-preparedness,” Mississippi State Superintendent of Education Carey Wright told The Meridian Star last week. “It not only helps students to be prepared for college and careers, but also makes them highly competitive – not only globally, but also within their own state.”

The embattled Common Core – a set of universal education standards in math and English created by national associations of school officers and governors – have been adopted by 45 states with support from the sidelines of President Barack Obama’s Department of Education.

But some of those states, including New York, have begun to back away as teachers and parents have complained they are being poorly implemented.

Conservative groups have complained that the national standards are flawed and amount to a federal takeover of the education system.

Likewise, Mississippi’s transition to Common Core hasn’t been without controversy as several attempts have been made to reject the standards in the state’s Republican-controlled Legislature.

But those battles have split GOP lawmaker ranks, with Gov. Phil Bryant and legislative leaders joining forces with Democrats and Wright’s Department of Education to keep the state on track with Common Core.

In March, the Senate rejected a bill 39-11 that would have banned the state from spending money on standards and assessments related to Common Core. A number of other bills introduced by opponents have been killed in committee.

Mississippi adopted Common Core in 2010, and this spring participated in field testing of the new PARCC assessments.

Opponents have continued to rail and rally against the standards but the Mississippi Board of Education – although not completely unified on the issue – has pressed on, approving new Common Core-aligned textbooks in January and adopting in February new math and English courses based on the new standards.

According to an editorial in the Biloxi Sun Herald published in January, “nearly every district in the state has implemented Common Core standards in grades K-8, with many having adopted the standards fully in grades K-12.”

With schools on board and already in an advanced state of transition, Wright told the Sun Herald, there’s an even more important reason to keep moving forward with Common Core: Under the current set of standards, Mississippi ranks 48th or 49th in the country in terms of educational obtainment.

Mississippi, which with the other 16 PARCC member states collectively educates about 15 million public K-12 students, plans a full rollout of its new testing program in spring of 2015.