The Mississippi Legislature has taken up the fight against Common Core. Two bills have advanced in the Mississippi House of Representatives passing out of the House Education Committee. The first is HB 156. The bill removes the pre-existing requirement for a combined state-federal system and it revises the name of the standards.
This bill doesn’t repeal the Common Core. House Education Chair John Moore (R-Brandon) told the Clarion Ledger that the legislation allows Mississippi to change the standards without asking the federal government for permission.
The second bill, HB 385, breaks the state’s ties with PARCC. The language of the bill makes it pretty clear that the current Common Core consortia assessments (PARCC or Smarter Balanced) can’t be used. Based on the language in the bill it appears if this bill is signed into law Mississippi will utilize ACT for their assessments since it establishes criteria that the entity they contract with has at least 50 years of experience adminstering college entrance exams.
Mississippi Speaker of the House Philip Gunn (R-Clinton) filed both of those bills and he also filed HB 395 which also passed the House Education Committee. This bill reinforces that school districts through their elected school boards adopt curriculum that is aligned to the state’s assessment standards.
HB 385 is probably the most meaningful bill of the bunch. HB 156 seems completely meaningless to me, but I’ll admit I’m not familiar with Mississippi education law so perhaps it was a necessary step. Unless a repeal bill is offered however the state of Mississippi could just end up renaming/rebranding Common Core instead of getting rid of it.
There also were two Common Core-related bills filed in the Mississippi Senate that will considered by that body’s education committee. The first bill was filed on Friday by State Senator Gray Tollison (R-Oxford) who chairs the Senate Education Committee.
His bill, SB 2249, will establish a Mississippi Commission on College and Career Readiness that would recommend new curriculum and assessment standards for public schools that are based on national and international benchmarks. It also directs the Mississippi State Board of Education to consider the new standards recommended by the Commission, and to remove the copyright and references to the Common Core in the Mississippi College and Career Ready Standards.
The commission will consist of 9 members with 2 members being appointed by the Governor, Lt. Governor, and Speaker of the House. One member will be appointed by the President of the Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning, and two members of the State Board of Education will also sit on the Commission. The Commission is to hold its first meeting no later than September 1, 2015.
The Commission would be tasked to recommend additional academic standards for and propose changes to the current Mississippi standards that include the Common Core math and English-language arts standards. They then to recommend an assessment that is aligned to the new and revised standards. The bill then directs this commission to solicit feedback online and then make its recommendation to the Mississippi Legislature no later than January 1, 2016.
The bill then prohibits the Mississippi State Board of Education from entering into any agreement, contract or memorandum of understanding with any federal agency or private agency that would cause the state to cede control of their standards and assessments. The bill also prohibits the sharing of personally identifiable data with any federal or third party agency.
Needless to say I have some concerns with this bill though it is better than the current status quo. My concern mainly lies with the process. First, their needs to be greater opportunity for public feedback than just an online venue. I hope the bill is amended to include public hearings/townhall meetings. Second, I’m concerned with the short timeline. I’m not sure unless they are to start earlier than September 1, 2015 how they can do anything beyond just offering minor tweaks to the existing standards. There needs to be a much more substantial revision than this.
That said I like it more than I do HB 156.
Hopefully Mississippi Senators can improve the bill via the amendment process and/or the Mississippi House will offer a stronger version.
The second bill, SB 2468, was filed on Monday by State Senator Michael Watson (R-Pascagoula). His bill takes a different tack. This bill, if passed, would direct local school districts to allow parents to opt their enrolled students out of Common Core-aligned curriculum, standardized assessments, and certain types of student data collection, as well as, prohibit the release of information regarding their children’s beliefs. It also directs the State Board of Education to draw up regulations consistent with the goals of the bill.
The bill offers language for an opt-out form to be used by local school districts for parents who seek to opt their children out. You can read the language of the form in the bill that is embedded below.