In 2008, a new system of public education standards was discussed by the National Governors Association. The new standards, called Common Core, would emphasize problem solving and competitiveness and would ensure that students throughout the nation met certain achievement benchmarks. The concept sounded solid, and we were assured that this was a state-led initiative with no federal control or connection to federal funds.
With good reason, states and parents have become increasingly concerned that Common Core is not what it first seemed and that it may not be right for our schools. I have attended several meetings with other governors where hard questions are being asked about this system.
Many of us had not been part of the original group of states that determined things like how schoolchildren would be tested under the Common Core program. In fact, it seems that the method used to choose the test intended to be used with Common Core — the PARCC assessment — was improper according to the Mississippi Personal Service Contract Review Board.
Yet, the Mississippi Department of Education (MDE) pushed it through anyway under claim of emergency, costing taxpayers $8.5 million. Of the 24 states that at one time decided to use the PARCC test, only 9 (including Mississippi thanks to MDE) remain on board. Clearly, many states have found reasons — legal and otherwise — they should not be participating in Common Core and the PARCC assessment.
Furthermore, Mississippi parents continue to voice their uneasiness about Common Core, and our state is among many that have taken action against the program. In December 2013, I issued an executive order that affirmed that Mississippi, not the federal government, has the right and responsibility to define public education standards and that Mississippi will not be required to participate in any bureaucratic federal education schemes.
In Mississippi, we need a public education system that works best for students. What we don’t need is a one-size-fits-all program with federal government strings attached. We should listen to parents’ concerns and research best practices to ensure what is taught in Mississippi classrooms meets the highest standards possible while maintaining state and local control.
MDE should ensure that all public schools in the state have the opportunity to implement Mississippi standards and curricula in a way that best supports students and teachers.