Gulfport parents learn what Common Core really means

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - It's called Common Core - new educational standards that more than 40 states, including Mississippi, have adopted. What's also common is the controversy the new standard has generated.

Monday at Bel Aire Elementary School in Gulfport, parents went to class themselves to learn about the program, and what it means for their children.

So just what is Common Core?

"It's a standard of student work, what we expect students to be able to do in each grade level that will be consistent across the different districts, across the schools, and across states," explained Tracy Williams, an education consultant.

That sounds noble enough. So why has the program generated so much resistance? Heather Blenden, the principal at Bel Aire, has a theory.

"Anytime there's change, which there is always change in education, people get a little leery," Blenden said. "That's why we're having this meeting this morning because we want to give the parents an opportunity to hear what it's really about."

During the meeting, those parents were engaged, asking questions and offering opinions. All the parents I spoke with said the same thing: While they came to the meeting with real concerns about Common Core, they left feeling a lot differently.

"Anything that's going to make our children productive citizens and help them with their education, I'm 100 percent behind it," parent Theresa Sease said.

"I think it's going to take the kids up to a higher level than it was when we were going to school and I pretty much like it," parent Bruce Lee said.

"I think it's a great thing for our children to achieve more than they have before," parent Jenna Laird said.

Those parents may have changed their minds, but Common Core still has a long way to go in being fully accepted. Even with most educators standing behind Common Core, several state lawmakers, including some from the coast, are not convinced.  They plan on introducing legislation in January allowing the state to scale back, or even abolish Common Core standards in Mississippi schools.

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