Monthly Archives: January 2015

A Casualty of War: The Takeover of Mississippi Education

The hostile attitude held by so many Republicans toward education in Mississippi is sickening. Their view that Mississippi educators have let the people of Mississippi down is preposterous. The lip service they pay to supporting public education is highly questionable. Their refusal to work hand in hand with state educators to fix education problems in favor of resolving issues on their own is dangerous. Their desire to tear down every existing education fence without first understanding why it was built is absolutely crazy. Their methods that often smell of Orwellian “Big Brother” is horrifying. That they are Mississippians waging war against fellow Mississippians is disheartening.

I have nothing against the Republican Party or the Democratic Party; over the years, I have probably voted Democrat or Republican an equal number of times. My vote has always gone to the man or woman I believed had the credentials, experience and integrity to lead and do what was right for the people. Lately though, with the lack of cooperation exhibited by both parties, I find support for either to be difficult. It is problematic for me to support what has become a messy Red and Blue political war at the expense of the American people. What went wrong with the political party system? How did politicians at both the national and state levels come to believe they know more about what is best for the people than the people? When was the Constitution amended to give Republicans or Democrats the power and authority to rule over the people rather than serve the people?

Some say it began with the election of Barack Obama as the 44th president of the United States. That may be true, but I believe the roots go much deeper. I believe it began when we lost respect for ourselves as a nation and a people. Recently, I watched the combined United States House of Representatives and Senate act like bad-mannered schoolboys as they riddled the President’s State of the Union Address with unrelenting disrespectful side chatter. Members of Congress do not have to like the man in power, but the man in power is the President of the Greatest Nation the world has ever known, and he is the elected choice of the people. Regardless of the man, the office of the President deserves to be treated with respect, but maybe respect is too much to ask when apparently so many no longer respect themselves or the Congressional offices they hold.

Since 2009 when the childlike pettiness and mule-headed refusal to work together began to truly escalate, the party system (Democrat and Republican) in the United States and at the state level has served little purpose other than to take up space. In his Farewell Address, George Washington warned this would happen, “It (party) serves to distract the Public Councils, and enfeeble the Public Administration. It agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms, kindles the animosity of one part against another. . . It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption . . . .” Doesn’t that sound exactly like both political parties at the national and state levels today? Their inconsequential jealousies and blatant animosity toward one another have nearly crippled our nation, and it is threatening to do the same to Mississippi.

The spirit of war that this jealousy and animosity has created between the Red (Republican) and Blue (Democrat) political parties is destroying the very foundation of our state. Unfortunately, in Mississippi, children, teachers, and school administrators are the first to be caught in the crossfire. Education has become a convenient rallying point for the Governor and Republicans’ obsessive fears of takeover by the extremes of the Obama socialist left on one side, and what they deem an incompetent education system that has strayed too far from the conservative values of the Republican Party on the other side. Yet, as the Republicans stage their own state takeover, they refuse to listen or work with state educators, and they propose bills just as heavy-handed and to the left as any regime with intentions of suppression. When it comes to education, not working hand in hand with state educators for improvement is shameful. When it comes to taking away the rights of the people, it does not matter if it is Obama or the Republicans leading the charge – both are wrong.

Although wariness of big government is not completely unhealthy, tearing apart an education system without knowing what you are tearing down, and then trying to legislate it back together is foolish. That’s like putting together a commercial airliner with Elmer’s glue; it looks good on the runway, but falls apart in the sky. You cannot fix the state’s education problems with Elmer’s glue/rhetoric nor can the problems be fixed with legislated band aids; it sounds good in theory and in the media and looks good on paper, but such superficial solutions will still fall far short of the educational needs of the state’s children. The first steps in improving an organization is to establish stringent guidelines for the product produced, secure funding, and hire the best people possible. Therefore, the first steps to improving education are to stabilize and strengthen it with stronger education standards, provide adequate funding that provides adequate resources and facilities, and secure incentives for recruiting bright young minds to be teachers. The Republicans who often speak of operating education more like a business do not seem to understand this, or they choose to ignore it. Instead, they are convinced Mississippi will be better served if they simply crusade to save the people of Mississippi from the incompetence of state educators and the socialist left of the Obama regime by increasing rhetoric and passing more laws.

I am afraid there is much more going on here than just a fight against incompetent teachers and protecting the people from Obama’s socialism. If you look closely at the Republican education bills proposed by the 2015 Mississippi House and Senate, it becomes clear this fight has very little to do with incompetent educators or the socialist left. This is a fight for power; a fight to dismantle the public school system in Mississippi to ensure the socioeconomic status of the “haves” and the “have nots.” Under the pretense of parental choice, this fight is about directing public dollars to charter schools, private schools, and homeschooling to ensure a segregated education. This is a fight that if lost will set Mississippi back at least a hundred years.

With such Republican sponsored bills as HB (House Bill) 449, designed to take away the First Amendment right of state educators, and SB (Senate Bill) 2249, which will create the Mississippi Commission on College and Career Readiness and strip the State Superintendent of Education as well as the State Board of Education of their duties as education policy makers, it is fast becoming clear that the “bad guys” on the left the Republicans have so vehemently cried against may have been on the right all along. Proposing a law to hush educator questions and concerns or imposing Gestapo like laws to strip the Constitutional authority granted a state agency are actions Americans may expect of hostile socialist and communists takeovers, but not from an American political party. There is nothing conservative or American about such actions; such actions go against everything Americans believe! Yet, this is happening in Mississippi. There is always hope that such bills as HB 449 and SB 2249 will not make it out of committee, but since the state’s Republicans have appointed themselves as education’s judge, jury, and executioner, I would hesitate to bet money against either of these bills. The Republicans often paint themselves as conservatives, but some of the recent bills they have proposed are anything but conservative. As unbelievable as it may sound, the Republican Party in Mississippi has moved so far to the right that they are now on the left. The only positive I can see is that their red colors fly well on the left.

JL

©Jack Linton, January 26, 2015

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The Mississippi Bill of Silence: HB 449

It came to my attention last night by a very agitated teacher that Mississippi House Education Chairman, John L. Moore (R), had submitted a bill intended to silence educators across the state on education issues. The good thing is that the teacher expressed her shock and disbelief after school hours, and by doing so, she was not in violation of Mr. Moore’s proposed “Bill of Silence.” To be fair, some of Mr. Moore’s bill is common sense and justifiable. It should be a violation of state law for school employees to use school time, school property or school supplies for political reasons (i.e. a teacher should not be emailing his/her legislators at 11:30 a.m. when the school day is in session). However, if that is all HB (House Bill) 449 was about, I would not be writing, but unfortunately, he did not stop there.

As you read through the bill, it becomes very clear Moore is not only concerned with what school administrators and teachers do and say politically during the school day but after the school day as well. If his bill passes, superintendents and principals will no longer be able to even mention a legislative bill, action or issue in an administrative meeting or faculty meeting without fear of being charged with a misdemeanor and fined up to $10,000. If you don’t believe me, look up the bill for yourself and read through it carefully, or you can simply keep reading as I look at each section of the bill and offer my response. Either way, all educators need to be familiar with House Bill 449.

HB 449

John L. Moore – Republican — Representative — District 60

  1. HB 449, Section 2a, c, d, e – Section 2 deals with prohibiting political use of school time, political coercion of school personnel, and involvement in campaigning and lobbying. School district employees cannot use school district time (regularly scheduled hours of school operation), property, equipment, supplies or personnel to produce, distribute, disseminate, circulate or communicate any material or information in support or opposition of any political party, philosophy or issue in an election that could impact the outcome. Campaigning on behalf of a specific candidate or issue or lobbying the Legislature for policy change is not permitted. In addition, school district employees cannot attempt to coerce political support from school personnel or conduct fund raising for political purposes during regularly scheduled school hours.

RESPONSE: School time, school property, school equipment and supplies as well as the directed or solicited services of school personnel SHOULD NOT be used for political purposes. Political activities SHOULD BE conducted outside the school employment day on personal time – not school time. If a school administrator, board member, teacher or other paid school employee wishes to exercise their Constitutional right of involvement in political activities, they SHOULD perform those activities on their personal time, which may include the hours before and after their work duty assignments, weekends, holidays and approved personal leave.  Nevertheless, there may be times when information of a political nature needs to be delivered to school employees during administrative meetings or faculty meetings. This is where a law such as the one proposed by Mr. Moore could be so literally interpreted that it imposes an unrealistic expectation that may lead to neglect of professional duties such as communication.

  1. HB 449, Section 2b – Section 2b deals with prohibiting school employees from using their school position to influence school personnel. School employees cannot use their official position in any way to influence or attempt to influence, district personnel to support or oppose any political party, philosophy or issue in an election that could impact the outcome. School employees cannot campaign on behalf of a specific candidate or issue or lobby the Legislature for policy change. Such prohibition shall include, but not be limited to, any form of advocacy or opposition in a classroom or school setting or other school related employment relationship.

 

RESPONSE: School officials should not be permitted to openly influence or coerce school district personnel during regularly scheduled school hours or even after hours, but delivering information that may be politically charged to inform employees as to potential impact on their jobs should be allowed.  This would hold true when the information and accompanying views pertaining to that information are directly as well as indirectly connected to the job the employees are expected to perform.  Also, who a school administrator, school board member, teacher or other school employee influences, supports, or opposes outside the school on his/her personal time is their business and Constitutional right.  This may be a bit radical, but technically if HB 449 passes, all school administrators, school board members, teachers, and other school employees would be in violation of HB 449 by exercising their Constitutional right to VOTE since their vote has a direct influence on the outcome of elections.

 

  1. HB 449, Section 3 (1) – Part 1 of Section 3 clarifies many of the “can do’s” and “cannot do’s” discussed in Section 2; however, Section 3 (2) says that the school district superintendent and school board members must remain neutral by not engaging in political activities on school property and by not publicly supporting or opposing any political party, philosophy or issue in an election that could impact the outcome.  Superintendents and school board members are forbidden to campaign on behalf of a specific candidate or issue, or lobbying the Legislature for policy change. 

RESPONSE: Lobbying the Legislature for policy change is a major part of being a district superintendent or school board member! The position of the district superintendent is a POLITICAL POSITION, so to keep him/her from speaking out on political issues is ridiculous! This is a blatant attempt to hush voices of opposition since the district superintendents are the ones in the best position to get their voices heard! Mr. Moore understands fully that by removing the superintendents’ right to speak out on behalf of students and teachers, he is in effect putting a muzzle on state educators, which leaves the legislators free to run Mississippi public education as they please.

  1. HB 449, Section 4 (1) (2) – Section 4 of HB 449 sets the penalties for violation of this act. Anyone who violates the act will be guilty of a misdemeanor and fined up to $10,000 on the first offense. A second violation of the act will result in a misdemeanor and up to $10,000 fine as well as revocation of the individual’s professional license and certification by the State Board of Education.

RESPONSE: While I am pleased to see Mr. Moore was gracious enough to allow the State Board of Education some say in an educational issue even if only in a punitive sense, I am amazed that an educator exercising his/her Constitutional rights could be fined as much as $10,000 while a parent guilty of child neglect for excessive school absences can be fined no more than $1,000. Since when in Mississippi did speaking up for yourself and exercising your freedom of expression become a more contemptuous crime than child neglect?

 

As the teacher who brought this newest development to my attention and the attention of many others said, “You (teachers) should be ENRAGED!” She is absolutely right, but if HB 449 passes, it will not matter. The Bill of Silence will effectively hush all educator protests.

JL

©Jack Linton, January 23, 2015

2015 Legislators vs Educators: The Fight to Keep Mississippi on the Bottom

Governor Phil Bryant says the majority of the public is against the Common Core Standards, so he and the state legislators are obligated to help the public get what it wants by ousting the standards from state schools. However, when a petition requiring Mississippi fully fund education by amending the state constitution was signed by over 116,000 certified voters, the Governor hedged on supporting the public’s will in favor of supporting an alternative proposal by the state legislature designed to confuse the issue and almost assuredly defeat the public initiative. What gives? Does the Governor support the public or not? He is clear about his opposition to the Common Core Standards, and it is obvious he doesn’t support fully funding MAEP. So, when it comes to education, what does he support; what does he really want? He says he wants to see results. He claims too much money has been thrown at education with too little to show for it. He argues money is not the answer, but how would he know since he has played a significant role in short changing Mississippi K-12 education by 1.5 billion dollars over the past several years. His argument for results before funding or standards doesn’t hold water; to get results that lift Mississippi off the bottom of student performance, there must be adequate funding and rigorous standards in place, but maybe results are not the real reason behind his war on education.

Educators across Mississippi agree there is room for improvement, and they would like nothing better than to provide the Governor and state legislators the results they want to see. However, they are met with resistance from the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and state legislators at every turn. Why? It would be hard to believe the legislators are diabolical people out to get educators, but something smells in Mississippi. It seems the mindset in Jackson is to do whatever it takes to tear down K-12 education in the state, but to what end? Why are so many state legislators opposing more rigorous standards and full funding for education in one breath while calling for better student performance results in another? Many of these people are business men and women, so they should understand that outcomes are achieved in direct proportion to what you put in – whether it is in private business or education. You get what you pay and prepare for, so what gives in the Mississippi legislature?

It is becoming clear that opponents in the state legislature to rigorous standards and full funding of education want to keep Mississippi where it has been for over a hundred years – on the bottom educationally and economically. The Governor, Lieutenant Governor and many state legislators have never had any intention of fully funding education nor have they been serious about improving rigor and student achievement in the classroom. They want to ensure the present balance of the “haves” and the “have nots;” that is where their power lies, but of course, there is no balance between the two. Without rigorous education standards to challenge the state’s children as well as adequate funding to keep quality teachers in the classrooms, pay for resources and programs, and maintain adequate facilities, Mississippi is guaranteed to maintain its current socioeconomic imbalance, cheap labor force, and the submissive “Yes, Master” mentality of the poor. Adam Smith who is often cited as the “father of modern economics,” probably said it best, “The real tragedy of the poor is the poverty of their aspirations.” In Mississippi the aspirations of the “have nots” have never known equality with the “haves,” nor can they ever hope or dream of true equality in their fight for true liberty and pursuit of happiness without an education to give wings to their aspirations. Without properly educating all children, Mississippi’s perennial position of last in just about every education and economic category will continue unabated.

If the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and the many legislators who have made it clear they have given up on children, teachers, and Mississippi education as a whole get their way, the only thing we will need to seal the deal as permanent bottom dwellers will be a state symbol for education in Mississippi. We have a state bird, state flower, and maybe soon even a state book. All these symbols, the mockingbird, the magnolia, and the Bible tell who we are as Mississippians. If the Common Core Standards are cast out and full funding of MAEP is not upheld, maybe the perfect state symbol for education would be a crumbling school house. What symbol would better explain our state leadership, our priorities, and who we are as Mississippians?

JL

©Jack Linton, January 18, 2015

Let the Craziness Begin

Recently I read an article about the steps some schools take to ensure students do well on state standardized tests. Most of the steps mentioned sounded reasonable such as reminding parents to be sure to send their children to bed early the night before the test and staging academic pep rallies to motivate students to do their best on the tests. However, some of the measures came across as a bit extreme such as not allowing restroom toilets to be flushed during testing. As a former high school principal and district test coordinator, I can understand the reasoning behind such an extreme measure though I find it overkill even for my taste. But, I can’t blame a principal for considering going to such extremes, especially when so much is riding on state tests. Student performance on the tests impacts school ratings and rankings as well as job security for the principal and teachers. It would take a very foolish principal not to engage in strategies that might help students be successful on state tests even if those strategies might be a bit extreme.

During my years as a high school principal, I also put in place various testing strategies, but after looking back over the strategies I used, talking to current school principals, and doing some research, I discovered I was not as innovative as I thought. Today’s principals may not be “rocket scientists,” but when it comes to test strategy innovations they certainly rock! I would be hard pressed to keep up with some of the innovative thinking used by the men and women leading schools today, so I started asking myself what I would do differently if I was a principal preparing my school for testing in 2015. As a result, I developed a list of strategies organized as Pre-Test Day Strategies, Test Day Strategies, and Post Day Strategies. Through my experience as a principal and district test coordinator, research into testing strategies, and discussions with other principals, I am convinced these strategies if followed have the potential to guarantee that all students pass the state test.

Pre-Test Day Strategies:

  1. JANUARY: Pump classical music into all classrooms, hallways, cafeteria, field house, gym and everywhere students may gather. Classical music has been shown to reduce anxiety and tension associated with stress;
  2. JANUARY: Rearrange student schedules so they meet in a different classroom every day. According to the research, movement forces the brain to form new associations with the same materials and results in creating a stronger memory. Studying the same stuff in a different place every day makes forgetting information less likely;
  3. JANUARY: Hypnotize all students! Beginning with the second Monday in January, schedule hypnosis sessions for all students who will be tested. Through hypnosis the conscious and subconscious mind work closer together; this makes it possible to retain information faster than normal. If the hypnosis does not work, all students will be taught the power of positive affirmation. Repeat after me, “I am a beast. I am a testing beast. I am a focused testing beast. My mind is clear of everything but the test. I have the power within me to will myself to victory over this test.” Everyone knows the only thing that trumps preparation is believing you can do it;
  4. FEBRUARY: Proper diet is important to learning, and fish heads are highly regarded worldwide as a brain food. Therefore, mandate the school cafeteria serve at least one daily serving of fish heads at breakfast and/or lunch beginning in February. For students with weak stomachs, fish oil capsules can be substituted;
  5. MARCH: Teachers cannot introduce any new material after spring break. Of course, since the focus switches from learning to testing in January, this will have already happened in most classes;
  6. APRIL: Hold an academic pep rally the day before the test to get the adrenalin flowing for the next day; and
  7. APRIL: Require all students to shave their heads as a sign of commitment and servitude to the tests.

Test Day Strategies:

  1. Research indicates caffeine-filled drinks keep us alert, so all students will be pumped full of caffeine the day of the test. Parent volunteers will start the day by serving hot cocoa and coffee on school buses. Cafeterias will serve chocolate milk, coffee, tea, and chocolate donuts with the school breakfast. After morning roll call, all students will report to the gym where they will be served Coke, tea, and chocolate chip cookies. Access to water will be denied until all testing is completed;
  2. Youth ministers from local churches will be brought in to pray and mediate with students before the test;
  3. Students will be served red grades before and during the test. There are claims that red grapes stimulate brain cells for higher brain function although I have doubts as to how effective this one time feeding frenzy might be;
  4. Anyone entering the school building on test days must wear soft sole slippers. Wearing slippers has been proven to help ease stress, and slippers are also great for reducing noise on tile flooring;
  5. No announcements over the PA (public address) system can be made during testing. Of course, students are so attuned to their classes being regularly interrupted by the PA system or telephones such a strategy might pose a problem for some students;
  6. Place the school under lockdown on test days. Have the National Guard on alert and armed guardsmen stationed at each entrance to the school;
  7. As students enter the testing room, each student will be given a special charm such as a rabbit foot, chicken/turkey wishbone, or amulet to rub for good luck during the test;
  8. All students will be required to soak their feet in ice water thirty minutes prior to the test to ensure they are alert and ready for the test;
  9. Classical music will be pumped into the testing rooms to help relieve test anxiety;
  10. The library will be closed during testing to avoid the potentially disruptive rustle of pages or books being closed too loudly; and
  11. Of course, portable toilets will be set up outside the building so flushing toilets will not disrupt tests.

Post-Test Day Strategies:

  1. Although teachers and students will be eager to get back to work once the tests are completed, all instruction will be canceled for two weeks after the last test is administered, so students and teachers can relax and celebrate the tests are over;
  2. Extra counselors will be brought in after the tests to deal with student PTSS (post-test stress syndrome); and
  3. Wine and cheese will be served in the teachers’ lounge to help teachers deal with PTSS syndrome.

Of course, I may be leaving out some innovative strategies, but overall I believe this list is an excellent start. If these strategies are followed, I am positive students will not only experience a 100% pass rate, but they will see a dramatic increase in their individual test scores as well. However, unless there is a significant change in the testing process, the single best strategy with the best chance of success might be to shut school down after Christmas and only require students to show up for field trips, extra-curricular activities, cram days, and test days! Everyone would be a lot less stressed, and there would be little if any significant change in test results.

Regardless of what strategies are put into place, I want to wish all students good luck and extend a big thank you to all teachers, administrators, and parents for hanging in there as the craziness begins!

JL

©Jack Linton, January 11, 2015

Common Sense Standards: Why Not Give Our Children a Chance?

Diane Ravitch is an education historian who has been torn between supporting Common Core Standards and not supporting the Standards. As of today, she does not support the Standards, but she has left the door open to change her mind by saying, “While I cannot support the Common Core Standards, I will remain open to new evidence. If the standards help kids, I will say so. If they hurt them, I will say so.” I respect that she is “open to new evidence” supporting the Standards, but what evidence does she have that supports the Standards will not help kids? She has criticized the Standards as untested and unproven, but wouldn’t that be the case for anything new that has yet to be given a fair chance to be tested or proven? Aren’t her concerns and the concerns of other Common Core critics untested and unproven as well? Does she really not support the Standards, or are her words examples of the age old education problem of “riding the fence” or “let’s wait and see?”

When it comes to support of the Common Core Standards, I am not a “fence rider.” Although I do have reservations about assessment of the Standards, I stand behind the commitment our schools have made to use them to improve the education of the boys and girls in Mississippi. I applaud the state’s educators for their bold commitment to enable Mississippi children to build the knowledge and skills they need to be competitively successful in today’s and tomorrow’s world. Such a commitment in the face of impending privatization of public schools, education misinformation or propaganda, ignorance, good old boy political posturing and attacks by those poor souls in favor of leaving things as they have always been in Mississippi is the stuff that makes for runaway bestselling novels in the New York Times and blockbuster movies in Hollywood. Thank the good Lord we have educators courageous enough to stand against the status quo and say this is what is best for Mississippi’s children!

As an educator for almost four decades, I believe the Common Core Standards are the best chance of improving education for children, especially in Mississippi. Of course, I realize my experience in education falls short of the evidence the naysayers seek that the Standards will make a positive difference in a child’s education, but I believe Ravitch might agree with me that past education experiences carry as much validity at this time as the limited non-conclusive evidence supporting or not supporting the Standards. Lack of clear evidence either way is at the core of her struggle to support or not support the Standards. Unfortunately, there are those who argue the lack of support from such a well-respected scholar is justification enough not to move forward with the Standards. They might be right if the variations of state standards we have spoon fed our children over the years had any real substance, but that has not been the case. They might be right if Mississippi could afford to start over from scratch and create its own new standards. We have tried that several times – FLE, MCT, MCT2, SATP and SATP2 – and each time after the politicians, concerned parents, business community, and scared for their jobs state educators gave their input as to what should and should not be included in the state standards and how it needed to be assessed and scored, we were left with a watered down state standardized mess that held little merit or benefit for students. I cannot speak for a nation, but I can speak from experience in Mississippi that standards should be strengthened, assessments should be administered that are timely and relevant, and classroom instructional practices should be aligned and tweaked to provide a more relevant and meaningful education for the state’s children. The Common Core Standards, which are not perfect but better than what we have offered students over the past several years, are the common sense approach to making those things happen.

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 by many in our state legislature as well as in our homes; and (3) Inconsistent instructional practices in the classroom. In Mississippi, 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. Until we raise the level of education commitment and quality for all children including those in impoverished areas of the Mississippi Delta and our inner city schools, Mississippi will continue to lie fallow at the bottom of the pile in the areas of education, economic development, and the general welfare of the people.

I do not have an answer for poverty, but a commitment to educate all children with the knowledge and skills they need to pull themselves and their families from the gutter of impoverished helplessness is the first step. I do not have an answer for the lack of commitment to education as a priority in Mississippi. The lack of education commitment is deep rooted in our culture and political system; nevertheless, we must do whatever it takes to eradicate such a culture from our existence. However, there is an answer for the plague of instructional inconsistencies that have ravaged Mississippi classrooms for too long. The answer lies in the consistent and sound instructional practices promoted through the Common Core Standards that if given a chance can and will make a serious even dramatic difference in the lives of Mississippi children.

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. As one teacher 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.” Another teacher wrote, “We should be ashamed! If opponents would read the standards they would recognize that the goals are actually similar to goals stressed decades ago when people could read, write and complete math equations without the help of spell check and calculators. I say bring it on. As a teacher, I say ‘I am ready!’” I believe Mississippi is also ready! It is ludicrous not to try something new when what we have done for so many years in the classroom has not consistently worked. Consequently, it stands to reason and common sense that the 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 the Common Core Standards and everything to gain. Obamaphobia will be vanquished in a couple of years and in a few short years the good old boy politicians who want to railroad the Standards out of Mississippi in favor of the status quo will hopefully be relegated to sipping ice tea and swatting flies on their back porches. But, if we are not careful the impact of their insecurities and lack of foresight will plague our children for generations to come. Diane Ravitch may be wise in her cautionary counsel regarding implementation of the Standards across the nation, but for Mississippi the implementation of the Standards represent a major step up the ladder for our children. The question is will we be brave enough and committed enough to climb that ladder, or will we remain grounded as a stepping stone for the rest of the nation. Will we have the common sense to give the Common Core Standards and our teachers a chance to succeed on behalf of our children? Will we embrace the Common Sense Standards and give the people of Mississippi a chance to move out of the past into a brighter future?

JL

©Jack Linton, January 5, 2015