Common Core a topic in Haslam-Huffman secret meetings with select educators

Washington County Director of Schools Ron Dykes has given the Johnson City Press a rundown on discussions during a recent closed-door meeting of seven selected educators with Gov. Bill Haslam and Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman – one of several such secret sessions held around the state.

Dykes said Common Core State Standards, Response to Instruction and Intervention and the postponed Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers test were prominent discussions at the invitation-only meeting July 25.

The private gathering brought a group of teachers, state representatives and a school board member, who weren’t invited to participate, to the central office parking lot before Gov. Bill Haslam and Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman’s arrival to ask them for openness in the implementation of new state education policies.

“Most of the educators in that room felt the professional development associated with Common Core were very good, they also valued the demands and standards, especially associated with the high expectations,” Dykes said of the meeting attendees’ responses to the new standards rolled out during the past three school years. “They thought it prepared students better for math, but they were somewhat concerned that the subject of reading was a bit more challenging.”

But not all feedback was positive, the director said.

When the topic turned to the new assessment designed to gauge the attainment of the new education benchmarks and the resources made available to districts by the state for needed technology upgrades, Dykes said there were more concerns than compliments.

“Most of the educators said the assessment was overwhelming, it was absolutely frustrating,” Dykes said. “They also had concerns about the amount of time that was spent on testing, how much time was taken away from the classroom.”

The teachers in the meeting asked the state politicians for sample copies of the PARCC tests to help them better understand what would be required of students, but Dykes said Huffman cited security concerns, as some of the questions on the assessment are reused.