Many of the questions that we hear lately from prospective parents and even some of our current parents are related to Common Core. Is MHS bound by Common Core? Do we align with Common Core? Do we teach Common Core? Are we planning to teach Common Core?
Our usual answer is, “We are not common!”
Magnolia Heights is not bound by Mississippi’s adoption of the Common Core Standards. Nor are we bound by the curriculum they use to teach it. The Common Core Standards in themselves are not a curriculum; they are the standards for what students should know. A curriculum includes what is taught, when it is taught, how it is taught and what materials are used.
Instructional standards are not new to our work as educators. Standards are designed to show what students are supposed to know and be able to do by the time they leave a particular grade. Report cards denote a student's progress toward meeting those benchmarks. Standardized testing such as the Stanford Achievement Test, PLAN, and the ACT are given for the specific purpose of measuring how well a student meets a standard. Whether this measurement gives parents, educators, and students a metric about how well a first-grade student is doing or if a high school senior is “college ready,” we are still using standards as benchmarks.
We, however, expect our students’ education to be beyond proficient and much more than basic. One of the great advantages of independent education is that we have the flexibility to adapt what is happening around us. MHS has resisted the need to adopt trendy educational movements while addressing the ever-changing needs of children entrusted to us for their education. Our 1:1 initiative is a wonderful example of this. Good teaching is good teaching. No computer or technology will ever take the place of a good teacher; it is simply another tool in their tool belt, and for our students, a bicycle to get from one point to another. We have passionate teachers with exceptional subject area expertise teaching in small classes that actually allow them to teach. Our mission is to educate the whole student - academically, morally, physically, and spiritually. Our school boasts years of success in this mission.
As a school that is obligated to provide superior teaching and learning, we would be remiss in ignoring such a significant movement in education as Common Core and its purported focus on developing the critical-thinking, problem-solving and analytical skills of students. These are skills that MHS has been integrating into our curriculum for years. We also understand the feeling of many families that the curriculum currently used to integrate Common Core standards in many schools differs significantly from the values that they hold dear. While we will not be adopting Common Core, we can look at those standards just as we did the Mississippi Frameworks, make them more rigorous, filter them through tried and true foundational teaching methods and frameworks, and infuse them with our faith. Common Core will not dictate our curriculum, instructional methodologies or the materials we use. All of these elements will continue to be determined by MHS administration and teachers.
On a final note, one of the main tenets of Common Core is to ensure that students are ready for college. What Common Core claims to do, we are already doing and doing well. Our average ACT score is above not only the state average, but the National average as well. Over the last 4 years, 98.5% of our seniors have been offered college scholarships totaling over 11 million dollars. Not only are our students going to colleges and universities, but they are also offering them scholarships to attend. Thus, the college-and career-ready standards that Common Core purports to support are already covered by Magnolia Heights School.