By Gwen Sisson
Louisville Municipal Schools Superintendent Ken McMullan said common core has “created just about as much buzz as anything I’ve witnessed in my educational career.”
“Politicians have politicized this initiative since the onset,” McMullan said. “That’s very unfortunate because its to important for our educational system to get caught up in a political football. Districts across this country have invested millions of dollars and to many hours of man power to count to get ready for it.”
McMullan said the changes that common core have forced school districts to implement are primarily that of increasing the rigor of which students will have to learn.
“Because our young people will be competing in a global economy they must learn to think differently,” McMullan said. “Problem solving and thinking outside the box is a must. Our teachers have worked very hard in preparing themselves to implement the new teaching strategies that common core forces you to do. We have put more on teachers in the recent years than anytime before and it’s truly a tragedy that they are not being compensated fairly.”
Louisville Municipal School District’s Director of Curriculum/Common Core Penny Hill said she believes the common core state standards are going to be a game-changer for students.
“The Common Core standards are set targets for what all children should know and be able to do at each grade level,” Hill said. “Districts and schools control how these standards are taught.”
Hill said some of the major changes that she has seen are an increase in reading and analyzing more informational texts, writing from that text, speaking and listening components, and higher math skills being moved to lower grades.
“We implemented Common Core in Grades K-2 in 2010 and we’re excited about the results we’ve seen,” Hill said. “Our students’ vocabulary, writing skills, math skills, and comprehension of informational texts have improved. The majority of teachers are positive and adjusting their teaching methods geared to the rigor of the higher standards. Students are positive as well.”
“I personally like the change to common core standards,” Hill said. “Our goal is that our students will be better prepared for college and careers and not just graduation from high school.”
Nathan Oakley, Director of the Office of Curriculum and Instruction for the Mississippi Department of Education, said the Common Core Standards provide a great opportunity for Mississippi to move forward educationally and economically.
“Teachers will need to focus more on the desired academic outcomes for students – placing more emphasis on problem-solving skills and conceptual understanding of the content,” Oakley said.
Oakley said some of the major changes Common Core will be bringing to Mississippi classrooms will be in the areas of mathematics, reading and language arts.
“In mathematics, some content is being taught in earlier grades than previously taught in the Mississippi Mathematics Framework,” Oakley said. “Students will be working not only toward procedural fluency in mathematics (ability to work problems quickly), but also toward conceptual understanding and application of mathematics in real world problems.”
Oakley said in English Language Arts, students will be focused on “literacy across content areas through the use of both literature and informational texts.”
“Increasingly complex texts will be used as students progress through school and prepare for college or the work force,” Oakley said. “Students will also focus on research and writing as an integral part of their studies.”
Oakley said teachers and school administrators are responding positively to the changes in the classroom.
“We have heard from a number of teachers and administrators who were early adopters of the CCSS,” Oakley said. “Many of these individuals are excited about the flexibility that the new standards provide and about the opportunity for students to develop better analytical skills and application of the content.”
The new standardized tests aligned to Common Core will begin in the spring of 2015.
According to Oakley, effective implementation is the key to student and parent adoption of the new system.
“In classrooms where engaging instruction based on the standards is taking place, student and parent feedback has been positive,” Oakley said. “Effective implementation is really key here. The CCSS do not require a single approach to any given topic or standard; nor do the CCSS require any particular texts or materials be used – these decisions are all made locally. Ongoing communication between the school and parents also plays a critical role in clarifying confusion about the what, why, and how of teaching and learning.”
McMullan said he is sure parents have concerns about common core because the materials their children are learning were taught much later to them.
“For instance, what my 5th grade child learns now, I think I learned in 8th grade,” McMullan said. “But again our kids will be competing against kids from other countries who are out performing the U.S.”
Hill agreed, saying parents have concerns that Mississippi is trying to do too much too fast, but she said she thinks parents will be pleasantly surprised with the results that will be shown in the future.
Hill has presented various parent workshops for the Louisville school district to help them prepare for the upcoming changes.. The school website also features a wealth of materials to encourage parents give them the opportunity to learn more about common core and all of the activities of the school district.
“We are very proud of all our schools and look forward to meeting the needs of ALL students,” McMullan said. “Also, I would like to encourage any parent thinking about public school to give us a try. We will be offering dual credit classes at LHS through ECCC that is almost unbelievable. Students from Nanih Waiya, Noxapater, and LHS will be leaving with almost a year of college in the future for a very nominal fee.”
For more information about the Louisville Municipal School District, go to www.louisville.k12.ms.us. Oakley also suggested several websites that might be of interest for additional information on the Common Core Standards, including:
- Survey results from a recent national survey related to CCSS and assessments:
- MDE webpage with information dedicated to parents:
- MDE webpage with information dedicated to community members:
- MDE webpage with answers to frequently asked questions.