Loden: Common Core is ‘piece to the puzzle’

Tupelo Superintendent Gearl Loden issued a statement on Friday in response to Thursday’s comments by Gov. Phil Bryant that called the Common Core academic standards “a failed program.”

Loden’s statement:

“Our district enhances rigor by focusing on higher order skills and depths of understanding. I don’t think we need to “oversell” the Core; it’s not the silver bullet. That being said, it’s a piece to the puzzle because it offers much in terms of rigor and college and career readiness. We are seeing though that many states are achieving this level of rigor and preparing students without using the PARCC assessments. I believe that Mississippi and Arkansas are the only two Southern states left in the PARCC coalition. “

Here is a story by the Daily Journal’s Bobby Harrison with Bryant’s comments and a response by State Superintendent of Education Carey Wright and State Board Chairman Wayne Gann defending the standards.

The Common Core is a set of guidelines for teaching math and language arts that many states, including Mississippi will begin implementing next year. They were developed by the National Governor’s Association and Council of Chief State School Officers. States had the option of whether to adopt them, although those who did so were in a more competitive position to win federal Race to the Top grants awarded by the U.S. Department of Education.

The standards are not a curriculum but note the skills that students must learn in each grade level. Supporters say they require more critical thinking skills and collaboration. Critics say they are an attempt by the federal government to dictate local education policy.

Here is the full statement issued by Gov. Phil Bryant. It came one day after Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal issued an executive order in that state trying to stop the enactment of Common Core. It is not clear whether Jindal has that authority.

Bryant:

“Last December, I issued an Executive Order that plainly stated that state law prohibits federal control of Mississippi’s public education system, and that order still stands. I have heard many concerns from constituents who are worried about federal overreach into Mississippi’s education system, and there is growing dissatisfaction among educators. Common Core is a failed program and many are realizing that these standards are not what many believed them to be. Mississippi has the responsibility and authority to manage its own education system and not delegate that control to Washington, D.C.  We have already made great progress in implementing state-led policies like the Third Grade Gate to transform our education system. These efforts, not some failed bureaucratic national standard, are what will make a difference for Mississippi children.”

And here is the full text of the statement from the Mississippi Department of Education:

“Dr. Wayne Gann, chairman of the Mississippi Board of Education, and Dr. Carey Wright, state superintendent of education, issued statements today regarding comments from Gov. Phil Bryant about Common Core State Standards.

‘On behalf of the State Board of Education, I want to express our disappointment in the comments Gov. Bryant has made about the state’s higher standards for learning. When Board members voted to approve the standards four years ago, we knew that this was an opportunity to provide students with the high-quality education that they deserved so they can be better prepared for college or direct entry into the workforce with the knowledge and skills to succeed,’ Gann said. ‘While Mississippi had made some improvements in education over the years, it was obvious that the state’s former standards would not be enough to move us from the bottom of every national measure of education outcomes. It is our hope that our students’ futures are not placed in jeopardy for political expediency.’

Earlier this year, the Mississippi PEER Committee issued a report that stated Common Core State Standards was not a federal government initiative and that Mississippi’s main purpose for adopting the standards was to raise the bar for educational achievement in the state.

The U.S. Department of Education did not develop the standards. The Common Core State Standards was a state-led effort that established a single set of clear, consistent educational standards for kindergarten through 12th grade in English language arts and mathematics that states voluntarily adopted. The standards emphasize critical thinking, teamwork and problem-solving skills.

Wright said that the Mississippi Department of Education and school districts have worked tirelessly since 2010 to prepare for the standards, and professional development for teachers continues.

‘It is a gross mischaracterization to call the standards a ‘failed program’ when Mississippi and other states have yet to give the first test aligned to the standards. The state is still in the implementation phase, and to remove the standards now would be disheartening to the district and school leaders and teachers who have invested time and resources in this effort.

‘Ultimately, our students are at the heart of everything we do, and they are as capable and smart as students in other states. They deserve the opportunity to perform to higher expectations, and we believe the standards adopted by the Board will provide that,’ Wright said.”

Finally, here is a statement that was issued on Friday afternoon by Mississippi First:

“For Mississippi to be first, we must raise our learning standards to match those of leading states across the country. Common Core State Standards enable our children to finally compete with their peers nationwide in literacy and math. The standards bring our students to a higher level than we have ever had before in Mississippi.

We know Mississippi students can rise to the challenge, but it will not be easy. The standards require more critical thinking and less rote memorization. Everyone–teachers, parents, and students–will have to work together to make this transition. By helping our students work harder for their success today, we will help them be more prepared for what waits for them beyond the classroom tomorrow.

Politics is never so ugly as when adults score points from each other at the expense of children. Choosing higher standards is not about what politicians are doing or saying in Washington, D.C. It is not about politics as usual in Mississippi, either. Higher standards are a Mississippi choice to no longer be last. If we want what is best for all students, it is our responsibility to keep moving towards higher standards no matter how long or hard the road is–or what seems politically expedient today. We must choose excellence for our students every time.”