The Shame of Mississippi: The Plight of Common Core

Louisiana governor, Bobby Jindal, recently made it clear he wants to kick common core standards out of Louisiana.  Almost immediately Mississippi’s own free thinking governor, Phil Bryant, followed suit by stating, “I think Common Core is a failed program, and the United States is beginning to realize that.  Governors all across America are realizing states can do it better.”  Really?  Mississippi became a state in 1817, and in the 197 years since Mississippi gained statehood, I would like Governor Bryant to tell the people of Mississippi when education has ever been a priority and when education has ever been done better than what is currently happening through the hard work and dedication of teachers across the state who are working to implement common core standards?  How does Governor Bryant know common core is a failed program?  Is it a failed program because he wants it to fail, or is it a failed program because that is the direction he believes current political winds are blowing?  Either way, as governor of Mississippi, Phil Bryant should be ashamed of his lack of support for common core standards, which equates to lack of support for the teachers and children of the state.

In fact, all politicians opposing common core standards should be ashamed of themselves.  They are not opposing the standards based on hard evidence that the standards are not the right thing to do or will damage children.  They are simply opportunists riding on the coattails of big government phobia, doomsday preppers, and ignorance that are currently strangling this nation, and they are doing it for personal and political gain not for the good of the state of Mississippi as they would have people believe.  Their finger pointing, fear mongering, and chest beating are nothing more than a smoke screen for backroom and backwoods politics.

Parents opposing the standards should be ashamed for listening to the political doublespeak of politicians more interested in votes than the truth.  They have been so filled with misinformation that they are more concerned with the possibility of big government meddling in their affairs than they are about what and how their children are being taught.  They are okay with the old sub-standard status quo as long as the government stays out of the picture, but ironically many of these same individuals are pro charter schools and vouchers, which are directly tied to government at both the state and federal levels.  What is the deal?  Mark Twain said people get upset with things they know nothing about, and that appears to be the case for many parents who oppose the common core standards.

As for the teachers and former teachers who oppose common core standards, they should also be ashamed.  They should know better than to get into bed with politicians who have at best only marginally supported them over the years.  It is hard to believe there are teachers in a country built on freedom of speech and independent thinking who would choose a teacher centered system where a child is told what he or she needs to know, believe, and think over education standards that advocate teachers as facilitators of learning who encourage children to explore and think for themselves rather than be told how to think.  Like the parents, these teachers are not bad people, but they are blind to the realities of the world in which we live.  Today’s children are not the children of 20, 25, or 30 years ago, and any teacher worth his or her salt understands that a teacher cannot teach children the same way as they did 20 years ago.  The old “feed and regurgitate” method of teaching does not work in today’s world!  In a society where knowledge is doubling every twelve months, children can no longer get by as passive learners depending on rote memory as past generations have done.  If Mississippi children are to compete nationally and globally, they will need to be critical thinkers and have a conceptual understanding of the world in which they live and work.

Finally, as a state ranked number 51 out of 51 in education performance, the people of Mississippi should be ashamed for even being entangled in a fight to implement common core standards.  Mississippi has experienced fully the impact of the alternative choice, and it has taken the state straight to the bottom.  Therefore, why not embrace common core standards and give Mississippi children a fair chance to rise to the top where they belong?  Besides, Mississippi politicians have 197 years of proof behind them that when it comes to education, they do not know what is best for the state’s children, so why not support common core standards and give our children a chance they have never had?  The common core standards are the best hope for Mississippi children to get on an educationally level playing field with the rest of the nation.  Mississippi adults should be ashamed if they deny them that chance.

JL

©Jack Linton, June 21, 2014

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25 thoughts on “The Shame of Mississippi: The Plight of Common Core

  1. patrice

    Our students leave the state of Mississippi and attend college all over this country and even more abroad. Common Core allows them the opportunity to experience college and career readiness on an even playing field no matter what venue they should choose in life. As a parent / educator it is refreshing to know children transferring into my class should arrive with an equivalent knowledge base, and I can take confidence in knowing the children who leave my classroom can go elsewhere and perform successfully as well.

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  2. Darein Spann

    Thanks for this letter. Your assessment is right on target. Until those opposing can come up with a way to move MS from 51 in educations, then I will listen. Until then let’s embrace what teachers across this state have been in training and have spent countless hours preparing curriculum documents and lesson plans a chance to effectively implement the standards. Not to make this political, but I miss the forward thinking of Gov. Barbour. This reactive thinking or following the leader thinking governor we have not is going to run us in the ground.

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  3. graceallegro

    n Support of Common Core from A Veteran Teacher’s Perspective:
    This post is not about any election. I am a give to Caesar what is Caesar’s type of person. I vote because it is my civic duty, and pray for forgiveness half the time I vote. I am not affiliated with either party. But people, it grieves me when I see a step in the right direction for the children of Mississippi getting caught up in political misinformation. I see education as mission field, and I am PASSIONATE about our children, our students, our future. That’s what this post is about.
    1. Common Core WAS NOT written by the government. It was written by teachers all across the United States and leading researchers after years of collaboration. They studied other nations as well to determine what our children would need to be competitive in a global society. Reference: http://www.corestandards.org/about-the-standards/frequently-asked-questions/
    2. All of those silly worksheets you see posted about Common Core are NOT a problem with Common Core, they are a problem with the textbook publisher’s APPLICATION of Common Core. Common Core is a list of skills that students should be working to master at every grade level. Common Core does call for more critical thinking skills than before, which have been shown to be very important into today’s global society. Common Core does not specify math problems, assignments. etc. Teachers and school districts are still given the freedom how to teach and apply the Common Core standards.
    3. Of course Louisiana and Mississippi voters are griping to our leaders about Common Core. Why? Because we are the most behind!! People, it’s going to be hard work to catch up! Aren’t you tired of being last in the United States? Don’t our students deserve better? Or are you going to scream “government interference” and continue to sit in a cesspool of mediocrity, or worse? Do you know that some of the other states biggest concerns when designing Common Core were that their standards wouldn’t have to be lowered to implement it?
    3. I have taught in four different states in very diverse settings, from the Mississippi Delta to Colorado. Tupelo is a gem in our state, but Mississippi needs the bar raised. People, I love Mississippi, it’s my home, but when it comes to education, as a STATE, we ain’t got it. Period. The reasons are multifaceted. It’s going to take a lot of work and time. I’m here to be part of the solution. Now, are we going to shoot ourselves in the foot and go backwards because of some silly political chest thumping, and sacrifice the children of Mississippi as a result?
    4. The key to effective implementation of Common Core standards, in my opinion, is thoughtful and purposeful teacher training of implementation, particularly in small, failing rural districts in the state that are isolated. They are severely underfunded, which I have witnessed first hand, due to MAEP never being fully funded every year. Most teachers, by and large, that I know, teach because it is their calling. They will do whatever it takes. Give us the tools and we will teach. We are underpaid, overworked, and love our students and jobs. We become pawns every election season and are under appreciated by law makers.
    In conclusion, children are our future. All of us were a child once. Think about that. Before you go bashing Common Core, do your homework and become educated as to why it was written, who wrote it, and why. It wasn’t “Big Government”, but concerned teachers, like me and other teachers that teach your children every day. If you have seen an awful worksheet or homework assignment, please understand that is a very bad application of Common Core written by idiotic textbook companies trying to make money.
    If you are an educator who has issues with Common Core, have you really read the standards and compared them with our own state standards and made a list of which specific levels of mastery you have issue with?

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    1. jlinton77 Post author

      Grace, you and Dr. Tricia Bridges have stated the case for common core much more eloquently than I ever could. Thank you to educators like the two of you (there are many) who carry the banner for the standards.

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  4. M. Hawkins

    Well, as an educated parent who is an independent thinker, I don’t love that the author thinks I’ve been erroneously led to my opinion by listening to others. As though I’ve been led astray.

    Jack Linton’s backing of common core stands to make him a killing as he is the CEO of School Improvement Network, so consulting on CCSS is his goal and will be his primary income in the years to come. Of course he would print how anyone opposing it should be ashamed. Hello.

    Ashamed? Because I don’t want the govt to play big brother in healthcare, education and so on? ABSOLUTELY NOT ASHAMED!! Am I happy with our previous curricula because I oppose CCSS? No, not a bit …. how small minded can one be? Bc it’s not black, then it has to be white?

    CCSS is a marketing machine & our kids are its guinea pigs. I believe that in this great state, we have enough intellectual minds (TEACHERS like yourself) to have created a rigorous curricula much better than a program that lacks longitudinal or efficacy studies to prove or disprove it. Would you allow you kids to take a medicine that had never been tested?

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    1. jlinton77 Post author

      Thank you for your comments. However, you have me mistaken for someone else. I am not the CEO of anything other than my home, and my wife would probably even trump me on that. I am a recently retired educator after 37 years who has absolutely nothing to gain by my opinions on common core standards other than to show my support.

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    2. Jamie

      We tried, and we failed to create a rigorous set of standards for our students. We, WE, designed the Mississippi Frameworks and Benchmarks under No Child Left Behind in order to get funding from the federal government. Yes, the federal government was involved then, too. The State of Mississippi set those standards years ago, and guess what, we’re still last in education in the nation. Common Core can help put us on an equal playing field with other states. It’s time to show the nation that Mississippi is great.

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  5. Oleta Lewis

    Mr. Linton
    As a former student of yours in Petal, having an A/A degree, and being the parent of 2 struggling children in the same district, I have to say I am ashamed that Petal would jump on the Common Core bandwagon when we were already a Star School District. Why would a 6A, top performing school use a fad for education that has no DATA to prove it works better than what we were using before??? I will tell you, having one going into 9th and one going in 1st, that WHATEVER Petal is using NOW, doesn’t work. I have watched my oldest struggling, steadily declining in grades where he once maintained a B average. My youngest is in a “looping” classroom, which I am EXTREMELY uncomfortable with because it allows him the chance to become lax by not being challenging enough. I could go on all day about Common Core and it’s detrimental side effects, but let me close with this: YOU, as a former educator, should be ashamed in the fact that you you are publicly endorsing something that yourself, being outdated, is not affected by the outcome or backlash as a consequence. What if we’re your 6 year old that was “not meeting standards”? “STANDARDS” being 110 sight words by the end of Kindergarten? SERIOUSLY?!?
    STOP COMMON CORE
    PETAL PARENTS AGAINST COMMON CORE

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    1. jlinton77 Post author

      Oleta, thank you for your response. I have four grandchildren in the Petal School District, and that is a major reason I support the common core standards. I want the best for my grandchildren just as you do for your children, and I believe the common core standards are best for ensuring my grandchildren receive the best education possible. I have nothing personally to gain by endorsing the standards other than believing that my grandchildren will receive the education they deserve.

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  6. Anonymous

    my kids are going into 7th and 4th grade they have common core i don’t really
    understand a lot of it it just doesn’t make sence especially the math but i will leave that up to
    you educators
    but all of the people on here as educators with DR.s degrees and masters degrees and all
    of those other degrees weather for or against common core got their degree before common core came along
    mississippi will be fine been here all my life not planning on leaving
    love all of y’all but sign me up as against it Brad

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  7. Peg Pickering

    Common Core as implemented in Mississippi schools is ‘common teaching to the test’ for the majority….and a travesty for special education students who are forced into mainstream classes and mainstream common core tests in such subjects as algebra and biology when they cannot add or make change.Ridiculous. I fully agree that the Mississippi schools NEED radical improvement….but his is not the way. I have one on each end of the educational continiuim….my daughter was Valedictorian of her 2012 class…..and was WOEFULLY UNPREPARED for college due to the poor teaching and curriculum in the Mississippi Schools. My son has severe autism and was taught NOTHING in special education throughout his years at school. NOTHING. This is an absolute travesty…..NOT helped by Common Core.

    Let’s try replacing Common Core with common sense. Our children will do much better!

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    1. Joe Smith

      Peg,

      I think your daughter being valedictorian and being woefully unprepared for college further illustrates why Mississippi needs standards that emphasize college and career readiness. Mississippi’s method of trying to develop its own curriculum and standards have proven to be fairly disastrous.

      Why not continue to use these standards before throwing them out before they’ve had a chance to succeed?

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  8. jlinton77 Post author

    Kevin, thank you for reading the article and responding. I congratulate you on your training as a classroom teacher and as an administrator. As to my specifics, I am also a trained classroom teacher with 16 years of experience as well as being a trained administrator with 21 years of experience. In addition, I have three degrees including a PhD. I am not sure what any of this has to do with common core, but since you brought it up, I thought I would share. Again, thank you for taking your time to share your thoughts.

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  9. Tricia Bridges

    Scott, as your former teacher, I’m glad to see that you take an interest in your children’s future education. I wish you would do this. Go on the web to the Common Core Standards- the Standards themselves- not someone’s analysis of them or anyone’s interpretation of them but the standards as they are written. Based on your comments, you will be most interested in the standards for Literacy in Social Studies. There will be standards for grades k-12.
    As a curriculum specialist, I have spent many hours studying the standards-all of them. I challenge you to read the standards. You will NOT find a standard that reads in any way that history is being rewritten or changed in any way. Nor will you find any wording about rewording the Constitution. Not one word alluding to any of the concerns you have. The Standards are simply standards- skills students must have to succeed in the 21st century. You’ll find wording that will say students should be able to apply the Constitution to various historical events or that they can trace and explain the various interpretations by the three branches of government of parts of the constitution through the years. You’ll find standards that say students should be able to compare and contrast various historical events through the history of our country. One example of that could be how are womens’ fight for the right to vote and African Americans’ fight for civil rights similar. You won’t find that example in the Standards. I interpreted the standards to choose those scenarios. That is how the Standards will be used by states and by teachers in local classrooms. MS’s newly adopted curriculum aligned to the standards outlines what should be taught in MS to meet the standards- like I just did in choosing civil rights and women’s rights. As a classroom teacher, I would have the choice of how I choose to teach the Standards that in my classroom. The federal government does not in anyway dictate what content is taught. The Standards written during George Bush’s term of office are just what they say- standards for students to reach, not a dictated curriculum.
    Again, I applaud you as a young parent in being concerned about your little boy’s education. Unless you’ve changed a lot since I knew you, I think you would want to base your opinion, not on all the rhetoric spouted continuously by politicians to make CCSS a political issue when it isn’t. The only way to know what the standards are is to read them and see if you find anything in the standards themselves that you would not want your little boy in years to come to be able to do. Dr. Linton nor I have anything to gain or to lose professionally if MS continues its adoption of CCSS or if politicians change that. You know why I am not afraid of the standards? Because I have read them and as an educator and a grandmother, the standards do not require anything I object to for my grandchildren to study; rather I pray that their teachers will teach to these standards because I want my 4 grandchildren to be able to think- to know how to find unbiased information so that they can make decisions and choices on their own rather than being unduly influenced by the hype and rhetoric they will hear from advertisements, from peers, from self- serving politicians and from others. Both Dr. Linton and I think the shame of which he writes is that this has become a political issue to capitalize on people not wanting so much government in our lives and acting as if any educator who, based on our expertise, disagree with the politicians then we must have been brainwashed or not care about the morality of students or the preservation of our country’s history.
    You are most certainly entitled to your opinion on the Standards, but if you still have the qualities I remember in you, you will want to form that opinion based on reading the standards themselves, not on what Dr. Linton says, not on what Dr. Bridges says, and not on what anyone else says.

    Best wishes to you,
    Mrs. Bridges

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  10. Ang

    Please share with us your evidence that the CCSS are going to help anyone learn anything.
    It is my understanding that they have NEVER been field tested. And there is no mechanism to adapt, tweek, amend them. Are we so sure adopting them is going to improve anything?
    We know they were not written by educators, nor was this a state lead effort. They were heavily pushed and funded by Bill Gates. So again, why are we so sure ther are going to help students?
    Because Bill said so?
    Some further reading for you

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/how-bill-gates-pulled-off-the-swift-common-core-revolution/2014/06/07/a830e32e-ec34-11e3-9f5c-9075d5508f0a_story.html

    Here is a very thoughtful essay by Diane Ravitch ( education historian)
    http://dianeravitch.net/2013/02/26/why-i-cannot-support-the-common-core-standards/

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    1. jlinton77 Post author

      Ang, As I am sure you are aware, Diane Ravitch is an education historian not an education practitioner, and while she says she does not support common core standards, she is also says, “If the standards help kids, I will say so. If they hurt them, I will say so.” I respect her open mind approach, and I sincerely hope if the day ever comes when common core is proven not to help kids, that I and all others who support common core standards will have the same open mind approach. However, as an education practitioner of 37 years, I believe common core is the best chance of improving education for children especially in Mississippi. Of course, I realize my experience in education is a far cry from the evidence you seek that common core will make a difference, but as Ravitch would tell you, hard evidence to support common core or not support common core is hard to come by at this point. That is why she has struggled so hard with supporting or not supporting the standards. There are those who would say that is justification enough not to move forward with the common core standards. They would be right if the hodgepodge of state standards that we have followed for years were providing a consistent equitable education for all children, but that is not the case. I cannot speak for a nation, but I can speak from what I have seen and experienced in Mississippi, and that is a change is needed in the way we educate children in Mississippi. Our children are not inferior to other children across the nation, but yet year after year, we are ranked on or near the bottom when it comes to education performance. There are three primary reasons for that: (1) poverty (35% of our children live at or below the poverty level); (2) Lack of commitment to education as a priority (Unfortunately, this is as much a cultural issue as it is a political issue); and (3) Inconsistent instructional practices in the classroom (The quality of a child’s education often has as much to do with geography as it does with the child’s ability to learn). I do not have an answer for poverty (other than an education), lack of commitment to education as a priority is a constant battle in Mississippi even though I believe there has been some cultural as well as political headway in that area, but consistent sound instructional practices are an area in which Mississippi educators can make a serious even dramatic difference in the lives of children. However, teachers need the right tools to make such an impact, and the common core standards are a guide as well as a tool that can help Mississippi teachers make a difference in the lives of the state’s children. Finally, my strongest reason for supporting the common core standards is that I support and believe in the teachers of Mississippi, and they are telling me that common core standards are the right thing to do for our children. Although I have been blasted for my support of common core standards, and especially for equating the word “shame” (I guess I could have used “embarrassed”) with lack of support for the standards, I feel the resounding thanks I have received from the education community more than validates my position. As one person wrote, “Look at how America ranks in education. Look at where Mississippi ranks. Now, someone explain the case for not trying anything new to me, please.” In my opinion, and what I believe to be the opinion of the vast majority in the education community, there is no realistic case or evidence against trying something new while the case is clear that what we have been doing for so many years in the classroom is not working. Therefore, it only stands to reason and common sense that common core standards should be given a fair chance to succeed. Again, I cannot speak for the rest of the nation, but Mississippi has nothing to lose by implementing common core standards and everything to gain.

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  11. Scott Wheeless

    I’m not ashamed at all for my views on common core. Think what you will about me and anyone else in Mississippi. None of my children will go to any school that has anything to do with common core and the changing of history or wording of the Constitution. As far as being ashamed, you can kiss my ashamed ass.

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    1. jlinton77 Post author

      Scott, I always assume all people, even those who disagree with me and I with them, are good people until they prove otherwise. I wish only the best for you and your children wherever you decide to send them to school. My goal has always been to give all children a chance to be successful, and I am sure you have the same goals for your children. Thank you for taking time to read my article, and for taking time to respond. I stand by my assessment of the common core issue, and I respect your right to disagree.

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    2. Kevin Roberts

      I guess you should count me ashamed, as an educator, for opposing Common Core.

      I wasn’t, until I studied it more. My opposition was solidified when I saw my son’s math homework. The emphasis was not on the formula or the aarithmetic. His ‘explanation’ was not in complete sentences.

      As a teacher in history the emphasis on writing actually takes away from the time needed to get all the material taught. The standards that are important are the history standards. Yet the reading and writing standards ate give emphasis under Common Core.

      Instead of learning ALL of American history students are told to read and write about something they are interested in. That leaves a lot out.

      No, I’m sorry. Given my experience in the classroom. My training as an administrator, and your lack of anything specific, I’ll count myself PROUD to see the day when Mississippi opts out of this top down cookie cutter approach to education.

      Maine’s problems are not Mississippi’s.

      Why the are we trying to force feed the same solution?

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      1. Joe Smith

        Kevin,

        I guess the question I have is this: Are you proud of Mississippi’s current place in the national education scene? I ask, not to be smug, but simply to point out that Mississippi has ‘opted out’ of shared standards for the duration of it’s history in public education. We’ve tried to go it alone… and we’ve done, by almost every measure, a lousy job. Why not give this a try?

        I also respectfully disagree. Maine’s problems, are, indeed, Mississippi’s and vise-versa. Our kids have to compete with those children in other states… and abroad, as well.

        Also, the standards are a CORE… states are free to add to them at their will. Why throw the baby out with the bath water?

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