Daily Journal Jackson Bureau
JACKSON – Legislation going to Gov. Phil Bryant will create a commission to make recommendations on academic standards to the state Board of Education but will not mandate changes to Mississippi’s current Common Core standards.
The House had passed language earlier in the session mandating that the nine-member constitutionally created state Board of Education enact 75 percent of the standards proposed by the commission.
But the final agreement reached by House and Senate negotiators – appointed to work out the differences in the positions of the two chambers – did not include the mandate. The agreement passed by comfortable margins in both chambers Tuesday.
“This is just a commission developed to look at the existing standards by the state Board of Education,” said Senate Education Chair Gray Tollison, R-Oxford. “…Nobody is getting rid of anything. This is just a commission.”
The 11-member Commission of Mississippi College and Career Readiness Standards, which will have members appointed by the governor, lieutenantgovernor and House speaker, was developed at least in part because of opposition – primarily by many conservatives – to Common Core, state academic standards developed in 2009 by the nation’s governors, state education leaders and others.
The goal, Common Core supporters said at the time, was to develop standards that would enhance critical-thinking skills and give states a method to measure their students’ achievement against those in other states and nations.
Various conservative groups have said Common Core has morphed into an effort by the federal government to usurp control of local school districts.
Various politicians, including Gov. Phil Bryant and Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, called for the elimination of Common Core before the session began.
But Sen. Chris McDaniel, R-Ellisville, and others said the legislation passed Tuesday and now pending the signature of Bryant will not eliminate Common Core.
“We are creating a commission that has no power,” McDaniel said. “…This is not a step in the right direction. You are talking about a lean in the right direction.”
Others who have opposed Common Core said they were voting for the proposal because there is no other option. House Education Chair John Moore R-Brandon, said if the state board does not accept the recommendations of the commission the 2016 Legislature could force the changes.
The bill does remove any reference to Common Core in state law. The state board already has changed the name of the standards to the Mississippi College and Career Readiness Standards.
In addition the legislation does prohibit after this school year the use of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers to measure how well students are learning the standards. Various local superintendents, as well as others, have voiced opposition to the PARCC tests.
Thus far efforts to adopt ACT as the assessment, as many superintendents have advocated, have been unsuccessful in the Legislature. Tollison has said that decision should be left to the state Board of Education, though House members might try to revive ACT legislation during the final days of the session.