LAUREL, MS (WDAM) - Mississippi will soon join 45 other states across the country in adopting Common Core State Standards.
Every public school in the state will implement these standards this school year before being tested on them at the end of the 2014-2015 school year.
"Now with Common Core, we'll be able to compare ourselves against Florida, compare ourselves against Alabama and Louisiana," says Laurel School District Superintendent Dr. Chuck Benigno. "Right now you really can't do that. To be honest with you, I'm looking forward to being able to show the other states what the children of Mississippi can do."
Common Core is not a curriculum. It is a core set of standards that are common in every school district and are set for each grade. The standards focus on mathematics and language arts, which are a foundation for other subject areas. The individual district chooses which resources will be used to teach the content in the classroom in order to meet these standards by the end of the school year. Because each classroom is different, it is a partnership between the district and the teachers to decide which methods are most effective for their students.
Also, Common Core is not a federal program. It was created by the National Governor's Association and the Council for Chief State School Officers. The federal government did not fund nor assist in creating this program, and adoption of these standards was voluntary actions by the school districts.
"In so many ways, it's not that different," says Benigno of how the standards compare to current Mississippi framework. "It's just asking children not only to circle what you think the answer is. Now you've got to be able to justify why you came up with the answer."
Assessments will be more than the generic bubble-in, standardized tests. Common Core tries to teach students to understand the topic and dig deeper into how an answer is reached.
"I know there's a buzz out there about Common Core, and I know there are some people out there who are a little leery because anytime you have something that has a national footprint and it feels like Big Brother's coming down it makes you pause a little bit," says Benigno of those who have opposed the standards. "But Common Core really is a collaboration. Educators from across the country are working together. We're just trying to figure out what skills should a fourth grader have or a seventh grader or a high school chemistry and how should it look nationally."
The 2013-2014 school year will be a transition period for many schools in Mississippi as they fully implement these standards. The MCT2 test will still be conducted this year, however, it will be "frozen" and not affect a school's grade.