February 25, 2014 9:25:44 AM
JACKSON -- Mississippi's Board of Education approved new Common Core-aligned English and math courses Friday, but not before some board members objected, saying they believe teachers and students need another year to prepare.
"I've had so many calls from teachers who said we were putting it on them a little bit too fast," board member Charles McClelland of Jackson said Friday.
Leaders of the state Department of Education said they will work with teachers but said districts are supposed to be several years into implementation.
"You've got to do it to make it happen," state Superintendent Carey Wright said. "We'll support our teachers."
The board adopted the Common Core standards in 2010, but 2014-2015 will be the first year that courses and tests are aligned with them. Proponents say Common Core, which has been adopted by 44 other states, will help students learn more analytically and less by memorization. Opponents see the standards as academically flawed and a loss of state control.
The approval of new courses follows the board's approval in January of new textbook lists and a transition plan for standardized tests.
Board members who voiced objections said they support Common Core but are worried about switching to courses that could be much harder, especially for students who have been taught under the old standards. There's particular concern about new math classes.
"There is great concern about these students that haven't been taught from the Common Core," state board member Kami Bumgarner, a Madison middle school teacher, said during a Thursday meeting. "Even though we say we're going to hold them to a high expectation, I don't know if they're going to be able to succeed in the classroom."
The state would drop math courses including advanced algebra, trigonometry and statistics, saying those concepts will be wrapped into the sequence leading from eighth-grade math through algebra I, geometry and algebra II. However high schools would offer those courses for one more year to students who have already passed algebra I, because officials believe more time is needed to make the switch.
Public comments were generally negative, but the board made few changes. It did amend math course descriptions to add a seventh-grade accelerated course that counts for high school credit.
"Some people thought this meant students would no longer be able to take advanced-level courses," said Trecina Green, associate superintendent for instructional enhancement. "School districts will still have the flexibility to designate course sections as accelerated or honors or (pre-Advanced Placement) through their local course management system."
Green said the department is preparing "scaffolding documents" to help teachers make the transition and will make a special effort to help districts prepare for the new algebra I course.
Students would still have to take four years of English and language arts courses, with English I and English II required.
Spokeswoman Sandi Beason said the Clinton school district has been implementing a blend of old and Common Core standards in upper grades in recent years. But Webster County Superintendent Jack Treloar said his district focused on teaching the old state curriculum until last year. He said Webster County isn't ready for the new standards yet, but "we are going through the process of immersing ourselves in Common Core."