Common Core: An Open Letter to Governor Bryant


Governor Bryant:

Recently, I was disheartened to see that you have announced your intentions to withdraw Mississippi from the Common Core State Standards, and, in effect, pull the rug out from under Mississippi’s schools.  This would be a terrible decision for our students, our teachers, and the economy of our state.  Please consider carefully the impact that your words and actions have on Mississippi education.

As a Mississippi teacher, I have worked extremely hard to implement Common Core.  My colleagues have worked hard.  My administrators have worked hard. My students have worked hard.  It hasn’t always been something we’re excited about doing, but raising standards is tough work, and in the end, knowing that my students will benefit from higher expectations, a focus on more rigorous thinking, and better classroom lessons, is well worth it to me.

Detractors will balk at the notion that common standards can make for better instruction, but here’s how Common Core will help my Mississippi students experience better classroom lessons:

Step 1. Sharing standards with other states means great teachers across the country will be teaching the same standards I will.

Step 2. We will all teach it differently.  And that’s GREAT!  Every teacher has her own style, her own way of reaching her kids.  With Common Core, all that matters is that I teach the kids to meet the standards, NOT that I fit a certain lesson plan. I can do it my way.

Step 3. The end-of-year assessments occur.  This is a good thing.  It lets me, the parents, the students, and the taxpayers know that these Mississippi kids are acquiring the skills they’re supposed to acquire. We can discuss how the “Test” should or should not look, but that is a DIFFERENT DISCUSSION.  This one is just about the Common Core Standards.

Step 4. Looking at the assessment data, let’s say I notice that my students tend to struggle in a certain area.  Something I do doesn’t help my Mississippi students as much as it could. Here’s where Common Core delivers its real silver bullet- its secret weapon, and what’s great is that it’s not even part of the official “program.”

Step 5. I use the Internet and other technology to access a HUGE wealth of resources that will help me change my instruction to really make sure my students get better.  Before, when I taught the Mississippi Curriculum (and the only teachers in the world who did were Mississippi teachers), I might find a cool lesson idea from a teacher in Meridian, or learn a new way to teach something from someone in Gulfport. Now, there is help from every corner of America, from regular, down home teachers just like me. What’s more, if you’re jealous of other states kicking our tails in test score rankings every year, why wouldn’t you want me making contact with those Massachusetts and Connecticut teachers, and finding out how they teach the same stuff I’m teaching?  This impact is huge, and it has the potential to change lives, from the Delta to the Coast. Common Core lets Mississippi use technology to improve education.

You said that you “think Common Core is a failed program.” Out of curiosity, on what measurement are you basing this assertion?  As you are no doubt aware, Common Core has not yet been fully implemented. Most school districts in our state have yet to teach one single year completely aligned to the Common Core State Standards.  We have yet to administer a statewide PARCC Assessment that can supply us with even baseline data as to how our students are handling the rigorous standards, much less actionable feedback from comparisons of growth.

Finally, you said, “Governors all across America are realizing states can do it better,” implying that your stance is to give more control of our education standards to Mississippian educators. Since your stance ignores the advice of both our State Superintendent of Education, and the Chairman of the State Board of Education, as a taxpayer and a hard working teacher (and a voter!), I can only assume that you have a much better solution ready to roll out.  I’m curious as to what that solution is. Surely in your efforts to shore up political support using a hot button issue, you aren’t suggesting that we merely return to business-as-usual.  I’m hard pressed to find any politicians who believe Mississippi students were doing just fine before Common Core.  You guys are quick to shout out that oh- the teachers are working hard, but the kids deserve better.

And you’d be right on both counts, Mr. Bryant. So tell us!  What’s your plan?

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