Little changes in new state standards

Published 11:26 am Friday, December 18, 2015

To the disappointment of those who called for a wholesale rejection of Common Core, it looks like the state will only tweak what it now calls the Mississippi College and Career-Ready Standards.

The much maligned Common Core was thought to be dead back in the summer, when legislators passed a bill distancing the state from it. But Gov. Phil Bryant vetoed that legislation, and instead a panel of educators was created to make changes to the state’s academic standards.

The state Department of Education took comments on specific standards for 90 days, with a panel of teachers, professors and parents crafting proposed changes.

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The state Board of Education voted Thursday to seek public comment on those proposed changes, and the board could approve the proposal in January.

Any changes would take effect in the fall of 2016.

According to The Associated Press, the proposed changes are mostly small. For example, the revisions would add requirements that first grade students learn coin denominations, how to count using money and how to use a calendar. The revisions also make clear that Mississippi students should learn cursive writing starting in third grade.

The biggest changes in the math standards involve moving some concepts that had been taught in algebra I into math courses later in high school.

But there would be few changes to kindergarten standards, despite concerns that too much academic work has been crammed into that grade, according to the AP.

The new standards, if approved in January, will still look and feel like Common Core. They still are intended to provide national benchmarks for math and reading while helping students learn more analytically and less by memorization — the same goals behind Common Core.

“It’s paying off for Mississippi,” state Superintendent Carey Wright said, rejecting a return to the state’s old academic standards. “To go back to something that was failing is just not prudent.”

Wright is correct. While Common Core and the similar Mississippi College and Career-Ready Standards are not perfect, they are a step toward improving public education in Mississippi.

The calls to return to the “old way” of teaching ignore that the state often is dead last when it comes to academic performance.