JACKSON – During a recent public hearing, interim state Superintendent Lynn House gave a sample question for third grade math from the MCT2, which is the test Mississippi uses for its current assessment of how public schools are educating their students
The question asked which of four symbols did not represent the fraction two-fifths. Two of the symbols were a series of connected squares – one group running diagonally and the other horizontally – and both had two of the five boxes shaded.
The other two symbols were circles – one having two of five slices shaded, but the other only having only one of four slice shaded.
I quickly whispered the answer to myself and leaned forward to tell Madison Superintendent Ronnie McGehee that I wasn’t so bad at third-grade math.
But then House gave the sample third-grade math question from Common Core. It had eight squares with six covered in flowers and asked the participant to fill in the blank that represents the portion of the squares making up Mark’s flower garden. There was no multiple choice – just doing the math and writing down an answer.
That was not all of the question, though. The next part of the question got really tough. It was a straight line, starting with an A on top and 0 on bottom. At the other end was an E on top and 1 on bottom. In between were the letters B, C and D.
The question asked which letter represented the fraction from the above flower garden question.
To successfully answer the question, first a student must ascertain that the E represents the whole number 1, meaning that D is the correct answer since that is three-fourths of the whole number and six of the eight boxes above or three-fourths were covered in flowers.
McGehee looked back and me. I didn’t say anything this time.
He just smiled.
If I was still in school, I might be against Common Core, too. If my kids were still in school, while I wanted them to get the very best education, I also might be leery of Common Core.
Common Core, no doubt, will be a challenge for Mississippi students, teachers and parents. But if Mississippi is going to grow, compete nationally and globally, it must undertake challenges like Common Core, House said.
She said what the state is currently doing is not enough to move ahead both nationally and globally.
Another question – on the seventh grade level – on MCT2, asked why residents of the District of Columbus had different voting rights to elect members to the U.S. House than did residents of the states. There were four choices for the right answer, and after a little deductive reasoning the obvious answer was that many lawmakers wanted the nation’s capital in their state, so in a compromise it was placed in no state, meaning the absence of state voting regulations as it relates to electing members of the U.S. House.
The corresponding question on Common Core was to read three texts about Amelia Earhart and write an analysis using at least two of the texts on the bravery and courage of the female aviator. “Remember to use textual evidence to support your ideas,” the question read.
Tea Party groups and some others oppose Common Core. They in essence say it is an attempt to federalize education, even though, the genesis of Common Core was the state’s education chiefs and nation’s governors, as well as business leaders.
The current administration of President Barack Obama has embraced Common Core, but it did not develop it.
During the upcoming 2014 session of the Mississippi Legislature, it is likely that some conservative legislators affiliated with the Tea Party movement will try to pass a bill to block the state’s planned enactment of Common Core national standards.
The whole issue creates an interesting political dynamic since Mississippi Republicans have gone the extra mile to court the Tea Party movement, yet the Republican leadership of the state has vocally expressed support in the past for improving and toughening the standards for the public schools.
Perhaps that political dynamic could be turned into a Common Core test question. But please no multiple choice answers and provide textual evidence to support your ideas.
BOBBY HARRISON is the Daily Journal’s Capitol Bureau chief. Contact him at (601) 353-3119 or firstname.lastname@example.org.