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VOL. 129 | NO. 55 | Thursday, March 20, 2014

Hopson Says Common Core Waiver is Option

By Bill Dries

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Shelby County Schools could seek a waiver from the state to continue using Common Core state education standards if the Tennessee Legislature suspends the use of the standards.

“As our world changes … this is really where we need to be,” Shelby County Schools superintendent Dorsey Hopson told school board members Tuesday, March 18. “If this is where the country is going – 45 of the states are going – and ultimately all states are going there, I think it really sets our kids back if we say, ‘Well, not you kids. We’re going to wait for a couple of years.’”

The Tennessee House earlier this month approved delaying further implementation of the state standards for two years. The amendments to a bill requiring courses on U.S. government in public schools also included delaying a testing component for math and reading for the same two-year period.

County Schools superintendent Dorsey Hopson may move to seek a waiver of a delay in Common Core standards. 

(Daily News File/Andrew J. Breig)

The bill is awaiting Senate approval, with indications Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration is marshalling its forces to defeat the Common Core delay there.

Common Core is a major component of education reforms Haslam has championed since he took office in 2011 and advocated as he ran for governor in 2010.

Hopson said if the Common Core stand-down becomes state law, he will probably ask the school board to request a waiver from state education officials to allow Shelby County Schools to keep pursuing the rollout of the standards, now in its third year.

“We just need to raise standards for the kids,” he added. “Our students are going to be far behind.”

Meanwhile, the board votes next week on a $52.6 million capital funding ask of the Shelby County Commission, designed to get in before the county’s school funding has to be divided based on average daily attendance, including within the six suburban school districts.

The tentative capital budget Hopson proposed Tuesday for the current fiscal year, which ends June 30, includes $12 million for a new elementary school in southeast Memphis to replace Westhaven Elementary and consolidate it with neighboring Fairley and Raineshaven elementary schools.

The budget also includes $16 million to build 20 classroom additions each at Berclair, Wells Station, Chimneyrock and Cordova elementary schools.

There is also $9.8 million for renovations and a 20-classroom addition to Germantown High School.

Also on the board’s March 25 agenda is the approval of attendance zone changes affecting more than 7,000 students, many of whom are in unincorporated parts of Shelby County that will remain part of Shelby County Schools after the demerger in the new academic year.

Hopson told school board members Tuesday he is changing two of the attendance zones based on reaction from parents at a series of town hall meetings in the affected areas.

The proposal to split students in unincorporated east Shelby County who now attend Bartlett High School to Cordova and Ridgeway High Schools is now a plan to send all of those students to Cordova High School.

And Northaven students who now attend Millington Central High School, instead of being assigned to Bolton, Raleigh-Egypt or Craigmont High Schools, would instead attend an expanded Woodstock Middle School that takes in sixth through 10th grades.

Hopson said the transition is an acknowledgement that many Northaven 11th- and 12th-graders will probably seek to continue attending Millington under open enrollment provisions of the Millington Schools system.

The Woodstock expansion would be for the 2014-2015 school year only, after which Woodstock would become a ninth- to 12th-grade high school and Northaven Elementary would join E.E. Jeter Elementary in becoming a K-8 school.

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