Earlier this month, Mississippi’s Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves spoke out for the first time against the Common Core state standards, which Mississippi adopted in 2010 along with 44 other states and Washington, D.C. Reeves said that the state should create its own “task force” to create new, better standards. Gov. Phil Bryant responded with a statement in agreement with Reeves, once again voicing his disapproval with the standards and calling them “one-size-fits-all bureaucratic standards controlled by Washington.”
Their comments sparked a flurry of reactions from the business community, politicians, and educators, including state superintendent of education Carey Wright, who published a joint statement with state board of education chairman John Kelly. Both said they have “grave reservations” about adopting new standards mid-year and that doing so would be neither cost-effective nor beneficial for the students and teachers in the state.
The Hechinger Report recently spoke with Shannon Eubanks, principal of Enterprise Attendance Center in Brookhaven, a k-12 school, to find out how teachers and schools may be affected by a sudden retreat from the standards.
Q: As an educator, do you think Mississippi needs to drop Common Core ?
A: In Mississippi, we keep jumping from one hoop to the next. I have no problem with Common Core per se, it’s just standards. I’ve always been of the approach that anytime there are new standards for the state you have to make them fit for your classroom, that’s what I’ve always encouraged my teachers to do.
Q: Have there been any problems with Common Core in your school?
A: We didn’t gradually implement them over the course of several years. What we did was use a blunt approach where one year it’s elementary, the next year it’s everybody. So we’ve got kids that are in say, seventh or eighth grade that have never seen this material before and they’re lost. And it’s not because of the standards, it’s because we as a state, federal government, whoever, we forced it to start at one time instead of a gradual process of implementation. Most of the educators in Mississippi and most of the teachers I’ve talked to (say) it’s not the standards that are the problem, it’s that it’s being pushed so fast on them that they can’t catch their breath.
Q: After the lieutenant governor and governor both spoke out against the standards last week, some say their comments were purely political. What do you think?
A: Four years ago the governor, the lieutenant governor and all the legislature were all for it. What happened is because we have an election year next year, there is a concern that there is going to be a push from the right that is going to cause them to lose office … Nothing in Common Core has changed over the last six months when the governor and lieutenant governor supported it. The only thing that changed was our U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran almost got beat by a Tea Party challenger and that has scared them. They are terrified and they’re running hard right on education.
Q: If the state does abandon the standards to create their own, how will this affect schools directly?
A: I’m not a big proponent of changing horses in the middle of the stream, and that’s what we’re doing. We’ve been under Common Core for basically two years…This is the first year that it’s fully Common Core because the tests are supposed to align to the standards. If we were to change, it’s (going to be) chaos. What are the teachers supposed to teach? The old Mississippi curriculum standards, or are they supposed to stick with the Common Core standards until they get something else?
Q: What do you think your school district will do if that happens?
A: If [the Legislature] pass[es] a bill in January that says we are no longer going to teach the Common Core, well okay, fine. But what are we going to teach the rest of the year? Are you going to give us two, three months to develop a standard and curriculum? Most districts cannot form their own. That’s why it’s done at the state level. We don’t have the time or resources on the fly to develop a new curriculum and new standards. I feel they are creating havoc for the purpose of political expediency. Our district is going to be sticking with Common Core until the state gives us something to replace it, if they go that route.
Q: How would this affect your students?
A: You’re going to have kids that are left behind. There are already kids that have gaps because they are going from one set of standards to the other. The best way to implement it is over time. What’s going to happen is with all the changes, you’re going to leave some students lost and confused and frustrated.
This interview was edited for clarity and length.