OUR OPINION: Move to Common Core requires adjustments

By NEMS Daily Journal

Mississippi’s move into implementation of the public schools’ Common Core State Standards requires a full refocusing of accountability methods and testing, a time-consuming, complex task necessitating pragmatic, temporary adjustments.
Moving efficiently into Common Core, a system of assessment proposed and pushed forward by the National Governors Association with the full backing of former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, prompted the Mississippi Department of Education to place a hold on state A-F rankings, beginning with this fall’s, until the Common Core goes on line in 2014-2015.
The ranking Mississippi schools and districts receive this fall could stick for three years, a reasonable interim to get to Common Core’s in-depth objectives with greater emphasis on critical-thinking skills. By freezing its school rankings, the state Board of Education hopes schools can better prepare for those Common Core State Standards.
Paula Vanderford, education bureau manager for accreditation and accountability at the MDE, said the current testing system and Common Core aren’t aligned, making parallel work with Common Core implementation problematic.
“Districts have a fear of moving into full implementation of Common Core because the assessments will be used in the accountability system,” Vanderford said. “We thought if we were able to not assign a performance classification over the next couple of years, that would release some of that fear, and districts would move toward full implementation of Common Core.”
Vanderford said students still will take state tests under the old standards in 2013-2014, and those test scores will be released to the public. However, those results will have no impact on letter-grade rankings, unless they improve.
Rankings also will be frozen in 2014-15 and 2015-2016 because the state will need two years of data under the new test before it can give rankings.
The Common Core State Standards website posted this explanation:
“The Common Core State Standards provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn, so teachers and parents know what they need to do to help them. The standards are designed to be robust and relevant to the real world …With American students fully prepared for the future, our communities will be best positioned to compete successfully in the global economy.”
Forty-five states, the District of Columbia, four territories and the Department of Defense are signed on.

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