Bryant signs exec. order to ease fears about Common Core changes

(Photo source: Gov. Bryant's Office)
(Photo source: Gov. Bryant's Office)

JACKSON, MS (WLOX) - Governor Phil Bryant wants parents and teachers to know the federal government is not going to force Mississippi to change its public school standards. Executive Order 1333 comes as school districts across the state prepare to implement Common Core State Standards.

"There is serious public concern about the reach of the federal government into state public education policy, and this order makes very clear that Mississippi and its local school districts and not the federal government are vested with the authority to define and implement public education standards," Gov. Phil Bryant said. "Our classrooms will not become delivery vehicles for bureaucratic federal mandates. We have made tremendous progress in enacting improvements in our public education system, and we will continue pursuing what works for Mississippi children."

Common Core is a set of English Language Arts and Mathematics standards that have been adopted by more than 40 states. 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 was actually adopted by the Mississippi Department of Education in 2010. It has been rolled out gradually in all Mississippi public schools and will take full effect in the 2014-2015 school year.

Opponents of Common Core say it hasn't been tested, so there's no proof that it raises student achievement. Others don't like the idea of being forced to adopt the standards, or risk losing the opportunity to compete for federal funds like the "Race to the Top" grant.

State Superintendent of Education Dr. Carey Wright said over the past three years, the Mississippi Department of Education has been providing professional development to educators in preparation for these higher standards. He said school districts have worked to develop the curriculum around Common Core State Standards and put them into action in classrooms across the state.

"The federal government hasn't done any of that. Our teachers and school leaders across the state have done the hard work to make this happen," said Dr. Carey Wright, State Superintendent of Education. "I believe it's imperative that we continue in our efforts to raise the bar for what children should know and be able to do at each grade level so that our students are better prepared to succeed in college and in the workforce. No longer can Mississippi afford to remain at the bottom nationally in educational achievement. If we are to improve the state's economy and job opportunities, we must begin with strong educational opportunities for all students. Our parents and students deserve no less."

Governor Bryant's executive order doesn't take a stand on Common Core; it simply reaffirms that decisions about Mississippi's educational standards will be made by Mississippians.

Read Executive Order 1333 in full:

Highlights of the order include:

-the state and its local public school districts, not the federal government, shall determine public school standards and curricula.

-the state and not the federal government shall select statewide assessments, and local school districts may implement additional assessments to monitor academic progress.

-no federal law or grant currently purports to mandate the adoption of any uniform, nationwide academic standards, curricula, or assessments.

-the state is under no obligation to comply with any future federal mandates for uniform academic standards, curricula or assessments.

-the collection of test data and other student information pertaining to academic performance shall comply with all laws that protect student and family privacy.

-the constitutional rights of Mississippi school children and their families will not be violated as result of federal education decisions.

-that, in accordance with applicable law, homeschool students are not bound by K-12 academic standards set by the Mississippi Department of Education.

WLOX News reached out to several South Mississippi School Superintendents. Most had just received the governor's order and were reserving comment for the moment.

House Education Committee Chairman John Moore and Senate Education Committee Chairman Gray Tollison both expressed support for the Executive Order.

"Mississippi families need to know that their children's education is not going to be turned over to an outside authority, and I thank Gov. Bryant for this order," Mississippi House Education Committee Chairman John Moore said. "We are in tune with our constituents' concerns and look forward to further codifying the points of this order in the upcoming legislative session."

"Excellent public education opportunities are vital to our state's success, and the Legislature takes the responsibility for fostering success in Mississippi classrooms very seriously," Mississippi Senate Education Committee Chairman Gray Tollison said. "We have seen tremendous momentum for improvement, and this order clarifies that Mississippians have the right to continue creating education solutions that are best for this state."

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