John Mullins is superintendent of the Arab city school system in Marshall County. Like most Alabama educators, he feels strongly about Senator Del Marsh’s effort to repeal the Alabama College & Career Ready academic standards. Mullins is opposed to Marsh’s plan. Here are his thoughts as first reported by AL.com.
In 2009 to accommodate a mobile society, especially with military families in mind, our nation’s governors and state commissioners of education initiated the Common Core Standards. With public input, a large committee of teachers and content experts studied and critiqued the best state standards in existence. From the work of this committee, the Common Core Standards were created and adopted by 45 states.
The Arab City School System is a district of approximately 2,500 students. We are very blessed to be located closely to Huntsville and the Redstone Arsenal. Our district is socioeconomically diverse. We literally enjoy the pleasure of educating the children of rocket scientists and the children of those who live in poverty. Even though we are a district with a history of being successful academically, the introduction of the more rigorous Common Core Standards challenged our students and teachers greatly. Unlike the previous state standards, recall and memorization are not sufficient for mastering the Common Core Standards. Our students and teachers both had to adapt and grow.
Arab City Schools embraced the new standards and delved deeply into understanding what students were expected to know and do. The standards are not how to teach; they are what to teach. New methodologies that foster active learning and focus on higher order thinking had to be cultivated. To help us be successful in this seismic shift, our district converted four of our master teachers into instructional coaches, who led us to understand the standards and how to teach them effectively.
Thanks to our wonderful students and remarkable teachers, Arab City Schools’ commitment to the Common Core Standards has paid tremendous dividends. According to data from the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama in 2013, 25% of the graduates from Arab High School had to take remedial or developmental courses upon enrolling in college. Thankfully by 2017, that percentage had decreased to 5%, the second lowest in Alabama. This significant reduction is proof that applying the Common Core Standards with fidelity benefits Alabama’s students.
So why is Alabama’s state-wide achievement data low? It is not the Common Core Standards. Research indicates two factors that negatively impact student achievement are poverty and the lack of educational attainment of parents. According to the US Census Bureau in 2017, Alabama is the fifth poorest state in America. According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, 31% of Alabamians have a four-year degree, which ranks us 46th among the 50 states. These are facts, not excuses. In Arab, 39% of our students live in poverty, and approximately 25% of our students’ parents have a four-year degree. However, through handwork and dedication, our students and teachers have excelled while embracing the Common Core Standards.
The Alabama public education system faces many challenges including marginal funding, politicization, and legislative meddling. Thankfully, many business leaders, chambers of commerce, high-ranking military officers, and professional associations are supportive of the Common Core Standards. More importantly, many Alabama public school parents support the standards. Unfortunately, the standards face opposition from various people and groups; some of which are misinformed and/or ill informed.”
Well done. We need more educators like John Mullins who are willing to speak up