TOM BURNHAM: ‘Common Core’ shifts toward students ‘able to do’

A significant education initiative is underway in our state that will help ensure that Mississippi’s children are competing on a level playing field with children throughout the nation.
This initiative, the Common Core State Standards, was recently adopted by the Mississippi Board of Education (MBE). The bold decision to adopt Common Core is consistent with MBE’s mission and vision to create a world-class education system.
You may wonder what makes Common Core different from other educational standards and assessment programs. Governors and commissioners of education from 48 states have committed to developing standards for proficiency in English language arts and mathematics in grades K-12. This is important because it provides consistency across the states, helps students prepare to compete globally and allows for the development of a common assessment.
Common Core will provide an opportunity to prepare Mississippi students for college and workforce expectations. It will ensure that all students, no matter where they live, have internationally benchmarked standards and assessments that are clear, understandable and consistent. The program was launched over a year ago by parents, teachers, school leaders and experts, along with state leaders, through the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. Common Core is not a federal program, but rather a state-led initiative.
One example of how this will have a significant impact is to consider Common Core’s shift from “What’s Taught” to “What Students Need to Be Able to Do.” This initiative emphasizes that to be successful in the 21st century, college and career students should to be able to:
• Solve problems
• Communicate
• Adapt to change
• Work in teams
• Analyze and conceptualize
Initial feedback from Mississippi educators has been very positive. We are developing a plan to transition to Common Core over the next few years with assessments expected to be in place in 2014-15. Mississippi is one of 26 states participating in the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) consortium to create our assessment systems.
Common Core is a major initiative that will help ensure that students are competing on the same level and working toward common goals. With students, parents, and educators all working together to make this initiative successful, we can positively impact the future of Mississippi for generations to come.

Tom Burnham is Mississippi’s state superintendent of education. Contact him through WPolk@mde.k12.ms.us.

TOM BURNHAM