OUR OPINION: Common core forum in Oxford open to all

Daily Journal Editorial

The Mississippi Department of Education brings its statewide series of forums on the Common Core State Standards to Northeast Mississippi tonight with a 6 p.m. Meeting at the Oxford/Lafayette County Library at 401 Bramlett Boulevard.

Common Core is the new, more demanding curriculum adopted voluntarily by the state Board of Education for all public schools. The Common Core’s overarching goal is to return American schools to the top rungs of performance, achievement and graduation among their international peers.

The independently developed program was championed by the National Governors Association as a nationwide standard; its supporters include former two-term Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, who remains a top-level leader in the Republican Party in Washington and Mississippi.

The meeting will offer answers for questions about Common Core, discussion about its content and explanations about how it’s being implemented.

As with almost any new program in education, Common Core has attracted skeptics and critics, but the information most frequently circulated is without foundation.

One myth, for example, claims Common Core is a “federal mandate” and means more intrusion in local schools.

The pubic school advocacy group Parents’ Campaign says, “Reality: Initiated in 2008, when President George W. Bush was in office, the Common Core State Standards grew out of a joint effort by the National Governor’s Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). Former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour was a member of the NGA at the time and has been a vocal proponent of the Common Core State Standards. Mississippi voluntarily chose to adopt the standards in 2010; we have not received any federal funding that requires the adoption of the standards. The federal government was not involved in the process of developing the standards. Local school boards will retain their authority over districts.”

Some claim Mississippi adopted the new standards without the proper review or public input, but Mississippi used the same procedures it has used when updating academic standards in the past. The state Board of Education received public comments before final adoption on Aug. 20, 2010, and public forums were held across the state.

Some groups don’t want any changes in education without exclusive review and approval authority, which is narrow and unreasonable.

Tonight’s meeting in Oxford, like the initial considerations, is open to all.