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VOL. 129 | NO. 54 | Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Haslam Pushing Common Core Standards

LUCAS L. JOHNSON II | Associated Press

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NASHVILLE (AP) – Gov. Bill Haslam reiterated Tuesday that Common Core education standards are crucial to continuing to improve education in Tennessee and he hopes to dismiss misconceptions about them.

The Republican governor visited three schools across the state to drum up support for the standards, which have been voluntarily adopted by 45 states. Tennessee adopted them in 2010 and began a three-year phase-in the following year.

Haslam began the day at Cedar Grove Elementary in Smyrna where he had a round table discussion with educators, before traveling to Indian Trail Intermediate in Johnson City and Lexington Middle School in Henderson County.

Following the event in Smyrna, he told reporters that there's a lot of misconception floating around about Common Core.

"One of the things I feel like we need to do is do a better job of explaining what common core is, and what it's not; why it's so critical for our students," he said.

Tennessee – which along with Delaware were the first two states to win the $500 million Race to the Top competition in 2010 – has been recognized nationally for its improvement in education. The latest results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP, showed Tennessee students leading the nation in academic improvement.

Haslam has said the Common Core standards – developed by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers – are needed to continue that progress and better prepare students for the future. They're intended to provide students with the critical thinking, problem solving and writing skills needed for college and the workforce.

However, a broad coalition of Republican and Democratic House members last week passed a bill seeking to delay the implementation of the new standards by two years.

The Senate would have to agree to those provisions before the measure would head for the governor's desk.

When asked if he'd veto the proposal if the Senate did concur, the governor said he makes it a practice not to say exactly what will happen when something gets to his desk, but that he's "committed ... to Common Core."

"Right now in Tennessee we're making unprecedented gains in education, and to turn around would be exactly the wrong thing to do," he said.

Critics say the standards – mainly new benchmarks for math and reading – were written in private and never tested in real classrooms, and that they could lead to the sharing of personal student data with the federal government.

Proposals that would require any data collected under the standards would only be used to track the academic progress and needs of students has been approved in both the House and Senate.

Martin Ringstaff, director of schools in Cleveland, Tenn., said he understands concerns about data-mining, but he's against legislation to delay further implementation of the standards.

"They need to move forward," Ringstaff said. "To stop now would only back us up. We've got to ... do what's best for the students."

Here are key details about Tennessee's Common Core education standards:

THE STANDARDS: A set of higher expectations in math and reading that were developed by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers to ensure that every student graduates high school prepared for the future. The new standards are replacing Tennessee's old set of expectations for students. The standards set goals for what students should know in each grade, but they are not a curriculum. Local school districts will continue to customize and choose their own curricula and textbooks. The standards have been voluntarily adopted by 45 states. Tennessee adopted them in 2010 and began a three-year phase-in the following year.

SUPPORTERS: Education advocates say the standards' focus on critical thinking, problem solving and writing skills are needed to help students prepare for college and the workforce. The state has provided training on the standards to more than 42,000 educators.

OPPOSITION: Critics say the standards were written in private and never tested in real classrooms. Another concern is that they could lead to the sharing of personal student data with the federal government. Earlier this year, education officers from 35 states sent a letter to U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan addressing concerns that there will be new reporting requirements because of the standards. They said that won't happen and that the federal government is prohibited from creating a student-level database with individual students' test results. They said the states will continue to provide the Education Department with school-level data.

LEGISLATIVE ACTION IN TENNESSEE: A broad coalition of Republican and Democratic House members have passed a bill seeking to delay further implementation of the new standards by two years. The testing component for the standards would also be delayed for two years. The Senate would have to agree to those provisions before the measure would head for the governor's desk. When Gov. Bill Haslam was asked if he would veto the legislation if the Senate concurs, he just stated that he's "committed ... to Common Core."

Proposals that would require any data collected under the standards only be used to track the academic progress and needs of students has been approved in both the House and Senate.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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