State senator, superintendents share opinions on Common Core

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - A state senator and two South Mississippi school superintendents took part in a lively discussion Wednesday over the new Common Core State Standards. They were among the speakers at a seminar in Biloxi. They shared their opinions on whether Common Core is right or wrong for Mississippi children.

New education standards began rolling into Mississippi classrooms three years ago. Now, state Senator Michael Watson of Pascagoula is co-authoring a bill that would stop Common Core.

"They say it's state-led. They say it's voluntary. They say it's internationally bench marked, and they say it's raising the standards. None of those four are true," said Watson.

Watson told about 50 people at the Educate and Engage Seminar he is against Common Core.  For one thing, he said, there is no proof that the standards really work.

"We're the guinea pigs. It's never been tested before," Watson said.

He also said the standards will eventually lead to more government control over careers for children.

"It's going to reduce choice. It's going to ultimately, and the people behind Common Core and the idea of Common Core eventually are going to be career driven. The government's going to say, 'You scored highest here, so this is what you're going to do as a job.' That's not American," said Watson.

Common Core standards are goals that every child should meet in Reading, Language and Math. The Mississippi Board of Education adopted the more rigorous standards in 2010. Forty-five other states have also adopted Common Core.

"I support Common Core," said Jackson County Schools Superintendent Dr. Barry Amacker. "I believe that it is a way to level the playing field when you start to compare how states and schools are doing. Right now, when Mississippi has one assessment and Louisiana another assessment, how will you ever know which one is doing better?"

However, Watson believes Mississippi can write its own standards with help from teachers from across the state.

"They're in the classroom. They know what's best for the students. They should have been the ones who say, 'You know what, here's where our standards need to go' and make sure our students get the best education. Let's write those ourselves. We don't need some private group coming in writing standards we're going to be forced to adopt," said Watson.

Pascagoula's superintendent says all stake holders, including teachers, businesses, and lawmakers, should work together on one goal.

"We should be putting children at the center of everything we do, not our own agendas. So I think we should have a huge strategic plan for education in Mississippi," said Pascagoula Schools Superintendent Wayne Rodolfich.

For now though, Common Core is due to be fully implemented in all Mississippi schools in the 2014-15 academic year.

The seminar was hosted by Coast Young Professionals. Other topics focused on the rate hikes in the National Flood Insurance Program, steps Mississippi can take to recover from the BP oil spill, and how to promote the film industry in our state.

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