Last week, I and my fellow Senators in the Mississippi Senate Conservative Coalition found evidence of racially discriminatory policy in testing expectations arising from the adoption and implementation of Common Core State standards in Mississippi. These standards are currently being rolled out across the state by the Mississippi Department of Education.
As a group, the coalition has begun researching public policy and potential legislation that will come to the forefront in the 2014 session of the legislature. However, when the latest evidence of racial standards arose, we could not wait until January to talk about it. It was an important enough issue to Mississippi students and their parents to be shared immediately.
The more we in the Senate Conservative Coalition learn about Common Core Standards themselves and the testing, reporting, and accountability model that Mississippi will be bound to as reported in the No Child Left Behind Waiver document, the more we are troubled. Our research indicates that Common Core implementation will result in more overreach from the federal government, higher than expected costs, and potentially lower standards for all students. As legislators, those are all issues at which we must look closer. Two of Common Core’s own mathematics standards writers have publicly stated how weak Common Core’s college readiness math standards are. These concerns, in conjunction with the added racial bias the coalition has found, would do great harm to future generations of Mississippians.
The Mississippi Department of Education adopted Common Core Standards in order to be able to compete for billions of federal grant dollars of which none were awarded to Mississippi, and to be able to request a waiver from certain portions of No Child Left Behind. However, racial proficiency quotas were added in the form of Annual Measurability Objectives as a component of a new Differentiated Accountability Model. This means Mississippi ‘s education officials plan for our schools to participate in these requirements.
The MDE document sent to Federal Education bureaucrats in Washington lists proficiency objectives through 2017 based on subgroups of race and economic disadvantage, setting the bar lower for black students than any other subgroup.
Recent reports in Virginia, Florida and Alabama have unearthed evidence of racial quotas arising from adoption of Common Core in those states, as well. We have also seen Georgia and Oklahoma back away from their agreement to participate in one of two consortiums developing the standardized testing for Common Core. Florida’s senate leadership recently sent a letter to state Superintendent Tony Bennett asking for Florida to withdraw also.
I would like to see a time in our state when race isn’t an issue and we can just discuss what makes sense for the people of Mississippi. It is insulting to minorities in Mississippi for a government agency to tell them that their achievement is limited or that less is expected of them because of their skin color or bank account balance.
We all have challenges to overcome, but telling someone they don’t have the fortitude to achieve success because of their race is something we as Mississippians shouldn’t stand for. I believe those that have overcome those challenges will tell you they did not want lower standards, or to be guaranteed things would be easier because of the color of their skin.
Young Mississippians, of all races and economic backgrounds, are the future of this state. We cannot afford to allow lower standards that negatively affect their future. There is too much at stake.
At a time when we are beginning to see improvements in the economy and job creation in our state, a setback to the education of those who would fill those jobs could be catastrophic. We cannot allow education policy to be adopted that will add to the already overburdened welfare and unemployment rolls. We cannot take the chance that the actions of a few in Jackson will put Mississippi families in that untenable position.
Common Core is not about high-quality national education standards. It is not about getting low-income or racial minority students into advanced courses in high school and then into college. Common Core standards is about how to lower the academic level of what states require for high school diplomas and for admission to public colleges.
I do not accept lowering the bar as an acceptable way to close the achievement gap, and I don’t believe Mississippi students or parents accept it.
There are many things we can do to establish higher standards in Mississippi, by involving the brightest minds we have in the state’s colleges and universities, and by involving our best teachers who know what does and does not work in the classroom.
As a State Senator, It is my intention to stand in support of legislation that will pause implementation of the Common Core standards because of these very troubling revelations. I support setting the same high expectations for all of our citizens, because I believe Mississippians can make the grade. To accept less is to accept mediocrity.
Please call your local school boards, your Superintendent of Education, and your elected representatives and tell them to support Mississippi’s future by setting high expectations for all of our students. Tell them it is time to pause implementation of Common Core until further study of this controversial program can take place.
Senator Angela Hill is a former educator from Picayune representing District 40 in the Mississippi State Senate. She was first elected in 2011. Hill is a former science teacher and has been a vocal proponent of education reform. She is a member of the Senate Education Committee, as well as 7 other Senate Committees.
- Senate Conservatives say Common Core’s race-based standards a case of blatant discrimination. (mississippipep.wordpress.com)
- Concern Raised over New Student Standards (wtok.com)
- HALL: MDE inability to find qualified reading coaches smells like a political power play. (mississippipep.wordpress.com)
- Senate Conservatives will reject one-year repealer in Medicaid bill. (mississippipep.wordpress.com)