Written by: Vincent Segalini, Office Director-English Language Arts Mississippi Department of Education
When the Common Core State Standards were being considered for adoption in Mississippi in the summer of 2010, the Mississippi Department of Education put the standards out for public comment for a full two months. Everyone in the state, including parents, teachers, and government officials, were given the opportunity to read the CCSS and provide commentary on their thoughts, suggest changes, and ask questions. Three years later, as schools and districts around the state have begun full implementation of the new standards, many Mississippians are asking questions, sorting through rhetoric, and seeking understanding of the CCSS. Lost in much of this discussion is this one simple fact: the Common Core State Standards are good for our students. We are asking our students to reach for greater heights, and asking our teachers to lead our students on this journey. As a parent, I am excited for my children; I am excited they will be challenged, and at the end of 12th grade, will be on the same footing as students from Oregon, Illinois, and Massachusetts.
One misconception of the Common Core State Standards is that students will be asked to stop reading great literature and read more and more informational text. This is simply not true. In the introduction of the CCSS, the authors provided data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) on SUGGESTED percentages of materials students should be reading. For example, a 12th grader should read about 30% literary texts and 70% informational texts. The misconception is that these percentages are only for English class. This is false; the introduction is clear in stating this is over the course of an entire school day. A typical high school senior spends about 25% of their academic time in English, 25% in math, 25% in science, and 25% in social studies. What are students reading in science? Informational text. What are students reading in math? Informational text. What are students reading in social studies? Informational text. Therefore, a full 75% of their school day is spent focusing on informational text. That leaves English class to require students to read the 30% literary texts suggested by the CCSS. When only 25% of their day is spent in English class, it is actually important that students read literature in ANOTHER class to reach 30%. The CCSS do not tell teachers what they should be reading with students. They do not require a specific text or book. They DO, however, tell teachers what SKILLS students should have when they read. For example, the CCSS state that students should be able to determine how the author of a text develops the main idea, asking students to use evidence from the text. It is up to the teacher to determine what text to use to help students master this standard. In other words, the standards tell us where we need to go, but not how to get there.
Much of the confusion and concern around the Common Core State Standards can be clarified by asking questions. The Mississippi Department of Education has provided large amounts of training and information to all stakeholders around the CCSS, including delineating between myths and facts about the CCSS. Exploring the MDE website, which can be found at http://www.mde.k12.ms.us/, is a great way to clarify questions and concerns.
Dr. Lynn House, Interim State Superintendent of Education, will provide further clarification about the Common Core State Standards in her Community Meeting, to be held Thursday, August 29th at 6:00 p.m. This event will be held at the Hernando Performing Arts Center and is open to everyone. Please feel free to attend and ask questions, seek clarification, and understand how the Common Core State Standards will help Mississippi students.