SPECIAL REPORT: What parents should know about Common Core

JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) - If you have a student in your family, you've probably heard about it. You may have even noticed a difference in the homework your child brings home.  Common Core was first adopted in Mississippi in 2010.

Supporters say it will help better compare student achievement with other states. So, what is Common Core and how will it help your child succeed? 

The way your kids are learning is CHANGING. That's sparked a fire storm of controversy. The new state superintendent is standing by the changes.

"We are moving forward with Common Core," said Dr. Carey Wright.

The other side argues it's not the right way to go about raising the bar.

"None of us are saying we don't need to improve our standards," argued District 51 Senator Michael Watson-R. "We do. But the right way about that is state control. States competing with other states."

Among those supporting the reform is Superintendent Dr. Carey Wright.

"The state of Mississippi is dead last in terms of educational achievement for our children," she said. "And I am a believer that these standards have the potential to be a game changer for the children of our state."

Wright says Common Core will help put Mississippi on a level playing field.

"You'll hear people say the Common Core curriculum and it's not," Wright said. "It's a standard."

She says it's simple. "Standards" mean there's certain benchmarks kids will have to meet at the end of each grade level. The question of who is pulling the strings on those standards is where controversy has set in.

"The biggest misinformation about Common Core," Wright explained. "Not the biggest. One of the pieces is that it is a government produced initiative. It is not."

She says it's state-led with local control.

The Department of Education doesn't hand over materials on how to teach these new standards. That varies from district to district.

Take Madison County Schools for example.

Curriculum Coordinator Christyl Erickson said, "No one comes in and says you will read these books. You will read these texts."

Associate Superintendent Charlotte Seals says one of the big shifts for your kids with the new standards is in English and Math.

Sample test questions are on the Department of Education web site. They show the difference between current state tests versus the new testing.

"We'll see that there's more complex thinking involved," Seals described. "More application. More hands on. More problem solving."

Senator Angela Hill-R disagrees.

"It's time that the truth be told to our taxpayers that we're wasting a lot of money on a program that's actually not going to move our kids up in the world," Hill said.

She was one of those leading the charge against Common Core in the Mississippi legislature this year. Hill and others, including the Tea Party, argue that the standards aren't as rigorous as they're billed to be.

"What I would like to do is replace common core with exemplary standards that another state had prior to common core that were heralded by experts across the country as being good standards, better than Common Core," Hill said.

She points to concerns over the changes to math standards not preparing students for advanced placement courses and STEM careers.

There have been rallies and press conferences aimed at slowing or stopping this Common Core implementation.

But here's the timeline for implementation shows that every school in the state will have it fully implemented by next fall.

Some folks have asked if Common Core applies to home schoolers. Officials at the Mississippi Department of Education said the department does not set standards for home school children.

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