Lafayette Schools Embrace Common Core, Looking Positively to the Future

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Lafayette County schools continue to gradually implement the Common Core State Standards, with the high school field-testing new assessments this spring.

Johnson's classroom is designed to facilitate student collaboration.

Johnson’s classroom is designed to facilitate student collaboration.

Mississippi’s switch to Common Core State Standards has continued to be a hot button issue in the realms of politics and education so far in 2014. The standards were adopted by the state Board of Education in 2010, and although debate continues, educators in Lafayette County see their transition as largely positive.

Melissa Johnson, a social studies teacher at Lafayette Middle School, is finishing up her second semester of teaching with the Common Core standards in mind, and for her, the transition was natural.

“When I first saw the standards for Common Core I thought, ‘If I’ve been doing my job correctly, then this isn’t new,’” Johnson said.  She does not see the standards as a rigid curriculum, as opponents of Common Core often argue.

“It’s the unspoken curriculum that I think, speaking for the middle school, a lot of teachers were practicing in their classrooms,” Johnson said. “It changed from something that was understood to being a requirement.”

Sixth grade teacher Melissa Johnson believe that Common Core supports her natural teaching style.

Sixth-grade teacher Melissa Johnson believes that Common Core supports her natural teaching style.

LMS assistant principal Joseph Adams is also supportive of the way his school is implementing the standards, at first slowly and now with full force. Last year, the school pushed the qualities of teaching Common Core, and in the 2013-2014 school year has moved to full application of the standards.

“The thing is, these are standards; it’s not a curriculum,” Adams said. “They’re not telling you how to teach it; they’re telling you the things students need to be prepared for by the time they get out of high school beginning with 10th grade, ninth and on down to kindergarten.”

Because Common Core State Standards are expected to be more difficult than the previous Mississippi standards, Lafayette chose to incorporate the standards in the elementary schools first and slowly work into upper schools in order to maintain a narrow learning gap.

“Our current third-graders will be prepared wonderfully by the time we get them in sixth grade, but the gap comes when we’re doing Common Core and our fourth-, fifth-, and current sixth-graders haven’t had that type of training,” Johnson said.

One way that Johnson altered her teaching style to become more compatible with Common Core was by rearranging her classroom, allowing students to sit in groups, rather then individually.

“I arrange the seats in these pods so that the students are working independently as far as from the teacher, but they are also working collaboratively as a group to solve problems,” Johnson said.

As Common Core comes into full swing, students will be expected to participate in more open discussion and improve their ability to express opinions related to the subjects they are learning. This means mastering tools such as writing in sentences and deciphering word problems earlier than is typically expected.

Adams sees the rise in expectations for students as a positive of Common Core.

“You always hear that phrase ‘a mile long and an inch deep’ about those [old standards], and what we’re going for here is an inch long and a mile deep,” Adams said.

With continued enthusiasm from teachers and administrators, as well as public support from local politicians, Common Core is proving to be an asset to Lafayette County schools, perhaps a picture of what other districts can expect to see in the future.

- Grace Sullivan is a staff writer for HottyToddy.com and can be reached at gmsulli1@go.olemiss.edu.

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7 Comments

  1. Ben MitchellApril 28, 2014 at 10:02 AM

    Sad to these this taking hold in Oxford and Lafayette County. In my opinion, it’s time for all sorts of government mandated tests and curriculum be abolished and let teachers do what they do best – TEACH!

  2. Leah Bates HanksApril 28, 2014 at 1:58 PM

    Ms. Johnson is one of the best teachers my son has ever had. If this is Common Core, then I’m all for it.

  3. Buster HarrisApril 29, 2014 at 6:18 AM

    Social studies doesn’t have common core standards! It’s only math and literacy that have Common core standards. That teacher is misleading. She refering to teaching stradegies that you can do with any standards. We’ll get a real feel for what teachers think when their evaluations are tied to student performance on the PARC test. Besides, the data collection is the dark horse in this mess. Your child’s data can be shared without your permission or notification. Research the changes to FERPA.

  4. BrandieApril 29, 2014 at 8:04 AM

    I never understand the whole “not a curriculum” argument… if that is true then WHYYYY is every school purchasing new materials? If it is true why are students in desoto county being taught with curriculum authored by the BOE and local teachers? People need to open their eyes to everything else besides the standards. Bill Gates (funder of CC from the start) said, “when the national tests are aligned to the national standards then the curriculum will line up”.

    Teaching the test, eh?

    If these standards are to make out children internationally comletetive, why are they a minimum of two years behind in math? How can they be internationally benchmarked when Jason Zimba, an author of the math standards, said the definition of college readiness is “minimal at best”. He also said they will prepare our students for “the colleges most students attend but not those parents aspire for”. So… community college ready? We had that already.

    We had that before they changed FERPA. We had that before they called on the states to create a SLDS to link education data with Healthcare data and WORKFORCE data.

    Arne Duncan says he hopes they can track children from “cradle to career”.

    No joke. Check your facts. Educated yourself and others while there is still time.

  5. BrandieApril 29, 2014 at 8:05 AM

    This is the problem.. falling in line behind others without educating yourself with the facts.

  6. BrandieApril 29, 2014 at 8:06 AM

    Why not have a math teacher? One who actually uses the standards? Not enough volunteers??? A social studies teacher shouldn’t be teaching these standards. Ha.

  7. Brandon SmithApril 29, 2014 at 8:08 PM

    Grace, can you tell the readers what the definition of “internationally benchmarked” means as it applies to CCSS? What countries did we use as benchmarks? Can you also tell me what actual educators signed off on the ELA and math standards?

    I implore your readers to watch this video about how Common Core REALLY came to be.

    http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=zjxBClx01jc

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