Gunn Proposes Common Core Reform

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Last week Mississippi House Speaker Philip Gunn introduced a bill that would make some changes to the current system of education standards in Mississippi, or at least its name.

House Bill 156 aims to separate Mississippi’s education standards from federal involvement.

The Common Core educational standards that Mississippi adopted in 2010 have become a polarizing issue among Mississippians. The standards were adopted to nationalize and standardize what K-12 students should know at the end of each school year.

Lately Common Core has been scrutinized by many Mississippians who believe that Common Core interferes with the state’s rights to create its own education standards and curriculums.

“HB 156 effectively removes the name Common Core from all education standards in our state,” said Republican Rep. Timmy Ladner, who co-sponsored the proposed bill. “It also removes the federal government component and federal control from any state curriculum. It gives us local and state control over education requirements.”

The bill was referred to the House Education Committee.

“HB 156 would rename the Common Core standards, as the State Board of Education has already done,” said Republican Rep. Toby Barker, a member of the committee.

“It’s an attempt to step away from the term ‘Common Core’ without repealing the actual standards.”

“While I understand making semantics a little less polarizing, I hope this doesn’t create the impression Mississippi has stepped away from higher standards,” Barker said.

The Mississippi Department of Education website states, “We need Mississippi’s college and career-ready standards, which are Common Core State Standards.”

House Bill 156 was the second of two bills Gunn introduced that affects Common Core. The House Speaker also introduced HB 385, which would require the state to contract with a single entity for comprehensive assessment system linked to college and career readiness.

HB 385 quickly lost relevance after the Mississippi Department of Education announced that it was withdrawing from the Partnership of Assessment and Readiness for Careers (PARCC) consortium last week and began the process of finding a new test provider.

Republican House Speaker Gunn reportedly told The Clarion-Ledger last week, “The objective is to opt out of PARCC and make ACT the assessment, to remove the federal attachment and to give control of our curriculum to the local school districts,” in reference to the two proposed bills.

When asked about the bill, Barker said, “I don’t think that it’s practical to dictate the use of a specific test by state law, particularly when we are not sure that the test aligns with new standards.”

The Mississippi Department of Education has an emergency one-year contract with Pearson to provide testing for the 2014-2015 school year and the department will begin the search for a new test provider that aligns with Common Core standards starting with the 2015-2016 school year.

Both bills have been passed by the House Education Committee and will proceed to the house floor for a vote, where both are expected to pass.