GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - New education standards will be fully implemented in all Mississippi public schools next school year. But on Monday night, a group of parents tried to rally support to stop it. The group "South Mississippi Against Common Core" is fighting to get those new standards repealed in Mississippi. Members plan to take their case to the state legislature.
The pews at Cowan Road Baptist Church were packed with concerned parents, educators, interested citizens, and a few state lawmakers. They came to hear arguments of why the new Common Core State Standards are wrong for Mississippi children.
"We cannot allow the federal government to control our schools," said Bunny Isgett-Lynn, Co-Director of the group.
"South Mississippi Against Common Core" organized the two-hour meeting. Members used words like "bribery" and "coercion" to describe how Mississippi came to adopt the standards.
State Senator Angela Hill of Picayune told the crowd that Mississippi was pressured into adopting the changes, because the state could risk losing the opportunity to compete for federal funds like the "Race to the Top" grant.
"Race to the Top, you couldn't get the substantial amount of points unless you adopt Common Core," said Hill.
Hill said Common Core has not been tested, so there is no proof that it raises student achievement. She plans to introduce a bill in January to stop Common Core, so a panel of educators can conduct a full review and cost analysis.
"Teachers are not prepared to teach it. There's a lack of curriculum, textbooks are not available, and we got kids that can't get help with their math homework," said Hill.
"It was done knowing we were not going to have adequate curriculum at the time. Yet the decision was made kind of haphazardly, I believe, in signing on to this, because it gave no consideration to local agencies and what a difficult position it was going to put them in to be able to implement this both financially and logistically," Hill added.
Mississippi's Board of Education adopted the standards in August of 2010. The standards are supposed to be more rigorous and involve more problem-solving, critical thinking, and reasoning skills. Students don't just memorize facts, they have to be able to show how they arrive at the answer.
Common Core is being rolled out gradually in all Mississippi public schools and will take full effect in the 2014-2015 school year. In spring of 2015, Mississippi students will take the PARCC assessments instead of the MCT-2.
The Gulfport School District fully implemented the standards three years ago as part of a pilot project.
"Common Core is a lot more in-depth. It's more student-centered and project-based, and it's really good for them to be more involved in their learning. In my opinion it's so much better," said Gulfport Teacher Sarah Wrightson.
However, opponents say they will continue to fight to keep Common Core out of Mississippi classrooms.
"We're going to have this and if we don't stand up and fight it now, we're not going to be able to fight it later and we're going to have a federalized education system for our kids," said Chris Ashley, Co-Director of South Mississippi Against Common Core. "I don't think anybody after the age of nine should have to think about 6x4=24. I don't think it should take us five or ten seconds to go through some cognitive thing to know that it's 24."
Forty five other states have adopted Common Core. A spokesman for the state Department of Education told WLOX News the standards will better prepare Mississippi students for college and careers, and they can compete with other students from across the country and around the world.
He said there was a study conducted, along with a 60-day public comment period before the standards were adopted. Plus, while the standards are a set of common goals for each grade to achieve, school districts get to develop their own curriculum.