MS Will Send Team to Chicago Conference on Common Core Standards; Focus is on Outreach to Parents as Essential to Success in New Curriculum

Mike Leaving MDE MeetingNovember 18, 2013, Jackson, MS – Southern Echo’s Senior Organizer Mike Sayer will be part of a 5-member MS state team invited by MS Interim State Supt. of Education Lynn House to participate in a national conference on Common Core Standards to be conducted by the Council of Chief State School Officers and the Policy Innovators in Education Network in Chicago, Illinois October 28 – 30, 2013.

Other members of the team are Walt Drane and Patrice Guilfoyle of the MS Dept. of Education, Nancy Loome of the MS Parents’ Campaign and Rachel Canter of Mississippi First.

The focus of the conference will be to bring educators, policy makers, and community organizations together to share analyses on how best to communicate with parents about the new national curriculum standards embodied in the Common Core Standards.

The Mississippi State Board of Education has adopted and is overseeing the rollout of new Common Core State Standards for Language Arts and Math. The first year of implementation is the 2013-2014 school year, this year.

In the 2013-2014 school year students will again take the Mississippi Curriculum Tests (MCT2) for language arts and math in the lower grades, and the Subject Area Tests (SATP) for English, Math, Science and History in high school. In the 2013-2014 school year, students will also take new Common Core assessment tests, but this year only the MCT2 and SATP will be used to assess school and district performance under the Accountability regulations. In the 2014-2015 school year students will no longer take MCT2, but rather will take the new Common Core assessment tests.

Common Core State Standards (CCSS) is the label that has been given to the agreement among 45 states to create a national curriculum in English, Language Arts, Math, Science and History. The stated goalis that a K-12 education in any state will be the equivalent of a K-12 education in any other state; in short: national standards for public education curricula.

The central value in the Common Core framework is to enable students to move from rote learning to critical thinking, from memorization of information to analysis and manipulation of information. The goal is to teach students how to think and to adapt the use of information to new situations, rather than for students to memorize what the answers ought to be on standardized tests.

As a result there will be an emphasis on the students learning to explain in writing what they are trying to say, how the students arrived at their conclusions (or solved the problems), and for the students to be able to explain what they mean so that others can understand.

This new emphasis will put a lot of strain and pressure on students to do things they have not been expected to do in the past, with skills and tools many of them were not expected to learn in the past. This same strain will be placed on teachers, who will be expected to enable students to step up to the new expectations in situations where many of the students and the teachers are unprepared and unsure how best to proceed.

Administrators who are responsible for overseeing this process are also new to the process and often untrained in how to deliver the new curriculum and, therefore, uncertain about how best to monitor, supervise and provide professional supports to teachers and students in this transition to a new standard for learning.

Teachers and administrators are supposed to go through meaningful training before, and as, the new curriculum standards are deployed. However, there is a considerable amount of skepticism among parents and teachers as to whether this has or will be done to the degree needed to provide students the supports they will need.

The MS Dept. of Education explains Common Core State Standards in more depth on its website.

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