On June 20, Governor Phil Bryant made news with a reversal of position on the Common Core State Standards. Calling the standards “a failed program,” Governor Bryant expressed dissatisfaction with the standards and indicated that he thought Mississippi might follow in the footsteps of other states who have abandoned the rigorous standards. Mississippi First responded with the following statement:

“For Mississippi to be first, we must raise our learning standards to match those of leading states across the country. Common Core State Standards enable our children to finally compete with their peers nationwide in literacy and math. The standards bring our students to a higher level than we have ever had before in Mississippi.

We know Mississippi students can rise to the challenge, but it will not be easy. The standards require more critical thinking and less rote memorization. Everyone–teachers, parents, and students–will have to work together to make this transition. By helping our students work harder for their success today, we will help them be more prepared for what waits for them beyond the classroom tomorrow.

Politics is never so ugly as when adults score points from each other at the expense of children. Choosing higher standards is not about what politicians are doing or saying in Washington, D.C. It is not about politics as usual in Mississippi, either. Higher standards are a Mississippi choice to no longer be last. If we want what is best for all students, it is our responsibility to keep moving towards higher standards no matter how long or hard the road is–or what seems politically expedient today. We must choose excellence for our students every time.”

Coming on the heels of Governor Bobby Jindal’s Common Core reversal and immediately prior to the deeply divisive Republican primary run-off for US Senate, Governor Bryant’s comments set off a fire-storm in the national and local media. Putting politics aside in this toxic political atmosphere can be difficult, but when discussing the state of education in Mississippi, it is important that we continue to keep the dialogue focused on our children.

The Common Core State Standards are a set of math and literacy goals that all students should meet before graduating from high school to ensure that they are ready for college and/or prepared for tomorrow’s careers. Most Mississippi children spend over 12 years in school working towards a high school diploma. When they graduate, they deserve to have gained a degree that holds real value in Mississippi and beyond. Yet, every year, Mississippi families find out that our kids are being insufficiently prepared. According to ACT, an estimated 95% of Mississippi’s graduates took the ACT in 2013; however, only 12% of the test-takers scored high enough to meet the four college-readiness benchmarks. As a result, Mississippi families spent over $35 million dollars on remedial college courses that do not count toward a college diploma. In addition, Mississippi continues to be ranked among the lowest-scoring states on the NAEP test, the nation’s report card, across all grade levels and subject areas.

Mississippi has made great strides in making innovative reforms to our education system–prioritizing literacy, funding early education, allowing high-quality charter schools, and raising teacher pay. However, how can we expect these reforms to work for our students if our standards lag behind the standards of other states? Great school programs and high-quality teachers with the same low learning expectations for students is not a formula for success. Rigorous learning standards are the educational foundation that will help us increase student achievement and be competitive with other states across the nation. By adopting the Common Core State Standards in 2010, state leaders in Mississippi took a bold step to shift the paradigm in education.

What we know from talking to educators is that the path to higher expectations is not an easy one. Successful implementation of the Common Core State Standards will take time, training, and dedication from teachers, leaders, families, and community members. In the moments when we begin to doubt our decisions we need to think about our children, sitting in their classrooms and dreaming of being teachers, entrepreneurs, computer programmers, scientists, and doctors. In order for them to achieve their dreams, we as adults must work harder, expect more, and focus on the task ahead of us. We cannot afford to be distracted by the over-heated political rhetoric or falsehoods that circulate about the Common Core State Standards.

Below is a list of common misunderstandings repeated by Governor Bryant in his recent comments to the press. We have linked each of them to an explanation about why they are false.

For more information about the Common Core State Standards in Mississippi, visit commoncorems.org. We encourage you to review our Frequently Asked Questions and Fact v. Fiction so you can learn more about the work we have ahead of us.

Show your support for the Common Core State Standards by clicking here and adding your name to our list of supporters. Let the Governor know that you support the standards, and they should be here to stay.

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