Haslam Calls for Review of Common Core in Tennessee

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Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam has asked for a review of the state’s use of Common Core standards.

Haslam plans to make recommend changes for the use of the standards within the state by the end of 2015 after the next legislative session.  Meanwhile, Republican lawmakers would like to see changes to the standards occur now.

The state had formally adopted the standards in 2010.  However, the non-Common Core related Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program is still in place after a vote last spring by Legislative to delay the implementation of Common Core-aligned testing.

The governor’s office will be launching a website that will allow the public to review the standards and then make comments and suggestions about them.  The Southern Regional Education Board will then collect the comments and the program will be reviewed by Tennessee educators.

“We need to talk to educators. It’s beneficial to ask parents and the educators what they think,” said Nancy Rainier, who retired from John Pittard Elementary the same year Common Core was adopted. “These kinds of decisions don’t need to be made by people sitting in an ivory tower. I think it’s time we see if we can come up with new standards on our own.”

Two eight-member committees will also be appointed by the Tennessee State Board of Education to review the Common Core math and reading standards.  Three advisory teams consisting of K-12 educators and a representative from a state higher education institution will work under the committees (K-5, 6-8, and 9-12).

The two committees are expected to offer suggestions for changes to the board of education by the end of next year.  The review comes only four years after the standards had been initiated.  Typically, standards in the state are reviewed every six years.

“One thing we’ve all agreed on is the importance of high standards in Tennessee,” Haslam said in a statement. “This discussion is about making sure we have the best possible standards as we continue to push ahead on the historic progress we’re making in academic achievement.”

Committee members will include principals, instructional coaches, teachers, college leaders, and other staff members from traditional and charter schools.

Last year, Haslam reportedly referred to the standards as important to educational progress in the state.  The request for a review shows a change in tone.

Recently, Haslam defended his position, saying he wanted to shift away from traditional education.  He said the review does not mean he does not believe in the standards any more, simply that he is hoping to clear up any misconceptions held about them.  He ended by saying “we’re not moving on standards.”

According to the State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE), supporters of Common Core standards, the review is an opportunity “to look ahead and continue raising the bar for children.”

Despite this, support for Common Core is falling.  A survey from Vanderbilt University found that 39% of participants believe the standards are good for students.  This is a drastic drop from the 60% who felt that way last year.

Speaking at a Chamber of Commerce event last week, Haslam said people are focusing too much on the Common Core name.

“The battle should be about: Are we going to have high standards or not, and what exactly should those standards be?” the governor said.