By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal
As Mississippi prepares to fully adopt a new national curriculum in two years, school districts across the state are busily preparing for the shift.
Mississippi is among 46 states that have agreed to use the Common Core State Standards, which will be much more rigorous than what is currently used.
In some cases, they will require skills to be taught at earlier ages. In others, they will teach fewer objectives, but will go into much more depth.
“It really causes students to demonstrate they have a deep conceptual understanding in addition to needing to apply the knowledge and skills they have learned,” said Mississippi Interim State Superintendent Lynn House.
To prepare, schools are beginning to gradually work the new objectives in with the ones they are currently teaching. Making that more challenging, students are still being tested on the current state curriculum, meaning districts can’t just toss it to the side.
Last year, most districts introduced the Common Core to kindergarten to second-grade classrooms. Those grades are not currently tested by the state, making it an easier transition. Many are now beginning to overlap both standards in older grades.
“Teachers are apprehensive about the switch when their name is still on the line for the MCT (the current state test),” said Sungja Collins, director of curriculum and instruction for the Itawamba County School District.
In Tupelo, a team of 100 teachers spent the summer studying both the Common Core and the state curriculum and looking for ways to naturally align them. They developed documents to guide teachers as they meld the two sets of standards. The district also will hold parent nights at all of its elementary schools this fall to introduce parents to the changes.
The Lee County School District spent the past year training third- to eighth grade teachers on the new standards and will begin adding them to those grades this fall.
“Our main concern is making sure when we move fully into Common Core, we don’t have any gaps,” said Chief Academic Officer Kathy Mask.
Amory’s school district is building new units, lesson plans and tests.
“This will be a long process to get this exactly where we want it,” said Amory Superintendent Tony Cook.
Itawamba County teachers are designing guides to help them in teaching the standards.
The Oxford School District is establishing a new writing component throughout the district and implementing a new reading series. The district also is being more deliberate about using technology in its classrooms.
“Districts have taken this information and done lots of things with it,” House said. “Some have moved slowly, and some have hit the ground running.”