OUR OPINION: Broader reforms making their way to Legislature

By NEMS Daily Journal

Mississippi’s Department of Education remains on track to achieve implementation of the more rigorous Common Core curriculum in the 2014-2015 school year, a stiff nationwide challenge that our state must master for a secure future.
Interim Superintendent Lynn House, in a Monday morning interview with the Daily Journal, said Common Core, an initiative of the National Governors Association and most state departments, is comprised of mathematics, sciences and language arts components and is internationally benchmarked – with strong accountability required.
House, a former dean of the School of Education at Delta State University and a Hernando native, said the advanced courses are necessary to, in effect, ensure student qualifications and knowledge are adequate for complex jobs ahead, although precise requirements aren’t yet known.
The Common Core was adopted as the standard when former Gov. Haley Barbour was chairman of the National Governors Association.
House offered a reminder, however, that Common Core may at first cause Mississippi’s assessment scores to drop, and that schools also will remain on the existing accountability testing system for a time.
In addition, House described the possible restructuring of high schools to fit a new learning track system that includes “multiple pathways” and “exit options” for graduation for careers not requiring college as well as the college prep path. In response to a question, she said she could see a day when 12th grade was eliminated because of its limited academic value.
The diverse path, she noted, would be more like an international model that sends students on their way to college and careers more quickly, conceding that it would be controversial.
House said the department would undertake a better and more persuasive marketing program aimed at parents whose children need to consider a non-college prep track, based on their records of academic achievement and interest, a good idea.
House also noted conversations about revising and raising standards for admission to teacher education programs.
“Teacher and principal preparation,” she said, “is wrapped around all the other (proposed reforms and plans).”
The plans and opportunities House cited are non-partisan, but she conceded that reforms almost always offend some constituency, ranging from varsity athletics to parental expectations.
Regardless, the ideas need discussion and the evidence already supports the adoption of some.