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Board of Education approves Common Core courses

On Friday, the Mississippi Board of Education approved new Common Core-aligned English and Math courses.

The 2014-15 school year will be the first year courses and tests aligned with the Common Core standards adopted by the state board in 2010, will be implemented.

Dean Shaw, superintendent of Picayune School District, said the district has already started implementing Common Core this school year, but will fully implement all standards in the upcoming school year.

Vera Beech, curriculum director and testing coordinator for Picayune School District, said one of the assessments would be critical thinking based.

The standards will be implemented for kindergarten through 12th grade, but K-2 students won’t be tested in the same way as the other grades.

“Common Core is going to call for a deeper understanding and requires students to be better critical thinkers,” said Kimberly Alford, curriculum director for Pearl River County School District.

Alford emphasized that Common Core is a set of goals and not a curriculum.

Beech also said Common Core would not dictate what and how a teacher can and can’t teach.

“We’ve always had curriculum standards. It’s just a new set of standards that focus on critical thinking,” Beech said.

“We as a district will still choose our curriculum. The standards are simply goals that call for a deeper level of understanding,” said Alan Lumpkin, superintendent of Pearl River County School District.

Both school districts provided professional development focused on Common Core standards to their teachers on the new standards being implemented.

“It’s been a multi-year transition for our teachers,” Alford said.

Beech said a sample group of students would do Common Core testing to see how students will perform on the new tests. Alford said PRC school district would also be participating in a testing assessment this spring.

“It encourages the practices we’ve been implementing in our district for years,” Lumpkin said.

Under the new Common Core standards, students would still have to take four years of English and language arts courses, but the state would change some math courses.

A new math sequence starting with eighth grade math through algebra I, geometry and algebra II would eliminate advanced algebra, trigonometry and statistics courses.

However, high schools would offer those courses for one more year for students who have already passed algebra I to create more time for the switch to the new math courses for those students.