A Call for Common Ground: Personal Thoughts on the MS Common Core Debate

by Daniel Kees

“What is Common Core? Do we even need it?” I hear these two questions more and more in recent years. As a graduate of the Mississippi public school system, I believe that we most certainly do need the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Last year, of the 95 percent of Mississippi’s graduating high school students who took the ACT, only 12 percent met the four college readiness benchmarks.* Most of the debate surrounding CCSS is bogged down in political rhetoric, and the concerns of those most affected—the students—are not being heard. Mississippi First’s Common Ground for Common Core initiative seeks to address this issue by reorienting the discussion around students and mobilizing student support for Common Core.

As a graduate of Vicksburg High School attending one of the most academically rigorous institutions of higher education in the state (and, indeed, the Deep South), I was more than a little concerned about how I would fare academically. I was fortunate enough to have had several exceptional teachers in high school who held students and their work to the highest of standards. Without CCSS, every student in Mississippi may not be held to such standards and will therefore be significantly less equipped for the college-level work or occupational demands ahead.

This sets those students at an enormous competitive disadvantage and has real-world implications for not only those students as individuals but also for this state as a whole. According to Mississippi First, in 2012 non-degree remedial courses cost the state over $35 million. Moreover, the poor economic performance of Mississippi could—and undoubtedly will—affect the economies of neighboring states in unforeseeable ways. So, everyone has a stake in the Common Core debate. This issue transcends any superficial boundaries and the all-too-political divisions of the day, as CCSS is a call to action for all of us. We must do our best to see that Mississippi continues to develop into the national leader that we all know it can be. This leadership starts with ensuring quality education for our students, our future leaders. I hope that, on the subject of basic education quality for our children, we can all find some common ground.

To find out more, visit: http://www.mississippifirst.org/education-policy/common-core-state-standards/