Education leaders defend Common Core



By Bobby Harrison

Daily Journal Jackson Bureau

JACKSON – Mississippi Board of Education Chairman Wayne Gann of Corinth and state Superintendent of Education Carey Wright issued statements Friday defending the enactment of Common Core after Gov. Phil Bryant called it “a failed program.”

Common Core, which supporters say is a set of academic standards designed to require more critical-thinking skills of students, was formed by the National Governors Association and the states’ top education officials late last decade. The state Board of Education voted to adopt Common Core in Mississippi.

Since then, various conservative groups have said the standards are an attempt by the federal government to take over the local school systems.

The Mississippi Economic Council and various other business groups have endorsed the enactment of Common Core as a way to improve the overall performance level of the state’s school districts.

In a statement released Friday, Gann, the former superintendent of the Corinth School District, said, “On behalf of the state Board of Education, I want to express our disappointment in the comments Gov. Bryant has made about the state’s higher standards for learning. When Board members voted to approve the standards four years ago, we knew that this was an opportunity to provide students with the high-quality education that they deserved so they can be better prepared for college or direct entry into the workforce with the knowledge and skills to succeed.”

Gann added, “While Mississippi had made some improvements in education over the years, it was obvious that the state’s former standards would not be enough to move us from the bottom of every national measure of education outcomes. It is our hope that our students’ futures are not placed in jeopardy for political expediency.”

The Republican Bryant made the comments Thursday – a day after Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal issued an executive order in that state trying to stop the enactment of Common Core. It is not clear whether Jindal has that authority.

In a statement released Friday, Bryant pointed out that he had issued an executive order late last year, saying, “state law prohibits federal control of Mississippi’s public education system, and that order still stands. I have heard many concerns from constituents who are worried about federal overreach into Mississippi’s education system, and there is growing dissatisfaction among educators. Common Core is a failed program and many are realizing that these standards are not what many believed them to be. Mississippi has the responsibility and authority to manage its own education system and not delegate that control to Washington, D.C.”

Wright and Gann pointed out that Common Core was developed by the nation’s governors and education leaders, not by the federal government. They pointed out the independent Performance Evaluation and Expenditure Committee of the Legislature reached that same conclusion.

During the 2014 session, the Legislature rejected efforts to prevent the Board of Education from enacting Common Core.

Bryant said Thursday that the Legislature might revisit the issue again in 2015. That revisiting would come as local school districts are scheduled in 2015 to administer the standardized tests that are aligned with Common Core.

During a recent visit with the Daily Journal editorial board, Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves said he also has concerns about federal intervention in the local school systems. “We will continue to monitor that very closely,” he said, adding he would try to stop Common Core if he saw evidence of federal intervention.

Wright said, “It is a gross mischaracterization to call the standards a ‘failed program’ when Mississippi and other states have yet to give the first test aligned to the standards. The state is still in the implementation phase, and to remove the standards now would be disheartening to the district and school leaders and teachers who have invested time and resources in this effort.”

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