NBC News focuses on Tennessee in a report on Common Core standards, starting with a Lawrenceburg mom who took her 10-year-old son out of public schools to protest them and proceeding to interviews with Sen. Stacey Campfield and former Sen. Jamie Woodson, now presdient of SCORE.
The head of Tennessee’s Senate Education Committee, Dolores Gresham, declined an interview, but committee member Stacey Campfield, a very conservative Republican, suggested there could be a push-back despite Republican Gov. Bill Haslam’s staunch support of the new standards.
Like Florida, Campfield said, Tennessee could pull out of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, the consortium creating the national tests slated to replace state ones in 2014-2015, or delay statewide implementation of the standards which is now scheduled to be completed by the end of the school year.
Campfield’s problems with the Common Core range from philosophical — “We don’t like when the federal government hands down unfunded mandates” — to practical.
A slower progression of math courses means Algebra 1 doesn’t start until high school, making it tougher to squeeze in calculus before college, he said, although some researchers argue that much of the algebra material is covered in eighth-grade math under a different name.
Campfield also takes issue with some of the recommended reading material, singling out the Toni Morrison novel “The Bluest Eye,” with its theme of incest.
“That reads out of Penthouse Forum or something like that,” Campfield said. “That’s not something an 11th grader needs to be reading in school.”
Tennessee’s Core advocates stress that the standards are just that and not a curriculum. State and local school districts can select their own textbooks and other materials, although there is a decided emphasis on reading and analyzing original non-fiction materials, like the Gettysburg Address.
“I think there is a lot of misinformation that has come into our state,” Woodson said.
She noted that five out of seven anti-Core speakers at the hearings were from out of state. “There was very much a national playbook feel to the strategy around that hearing,” she said.
Tennessee was already in the process of toughening up its standards when it signed onto the Common Core. A 2007 report found state assessments listed 87 percent of kids at grade level for math and reading — a number that dropped to 21 percent by national standards, Woodson said.