June 30, 2014 11:45:16 AM
Mississippi's two key K-12 education leaders, Board of Education Chairman Wayne Gann and State Superintendent Carey Wright, rejected quickly and firmly on Friday Gov. Phil Bryant's claims that the Common Core school standards is a "failed program" run by the federal government to the harm of local schools and the state.
Bryant's criticism came Thursday during a white-hot Republican U.S. senatorial primary campaign laced with invective about Common Core, days after Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal issued an executive order purportedly stopping it in his state, and only months before Bryant is widely expected to run for a second term in Mississippi.
Gann and Wright called it what it is: Political maneuvering for 2015 mixed with inaccuracies about Common Core.
Common Core was developed by the National Governors Association in collaboration with the states' educational leadership for a set of academic standards designed to require deeper understanding of subject matter, including the ability to apply principles learned. This emphasis on critical-thinking skills is an effort to make the U.S. more competitive with the higher-achieving students of some other nations. It is not a curriculum; that is left to state and local education leaders.
The Common Core, far from being a "failed program" has not been fully implemented in Mississippi. The first testing based on the Common Core goals is scheduled for 2015. Educators have been working literally for years to prepare themselves and students to transition from the system used now to the more demanding measurements Common Core will bring.
The Board of Education, which includes business leaders and professionals as well as educators, and Wright, believe Common Core holds exceptional promise for Mississippi, a chronic educational under-achiever. The Mississippi Economic Council, which seeks jobs and prosperity statewide and has been a strong education advocate for decades, has endorsed Common Core.
Wright and Gann pointed out that Common Core was developed by the nation's governors and education leaders, not by the federal government. The Legislature's Performance Evaluation and Expenditure Committee reached that same conclusion. Opposition only materialized when the Obama administration embraced the standards and offered incentives for its adoption, hardly the same thing as a federal "takeover" of education.
Thousands of teachers statewide have invested untold hours in good faith in learning how to use and apply Common Core. Don't pull the floor from underneath them as they approach the starting line for the race for which they've trained so long.