Tag Archives: common core

Lamar: TNReady troubles are Obama’s fault

OK, so the headline is a somewhat an exaggeration. Here’s the WPLN report:

Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander says federal interference could be at fault for the state’s continued delays in standardized testing. He spoke at Belmont University Monday about passing his fix to the No Child Left Behind law. He also addressed Tennessee’s problems moving to a new test.

TNReady wasn’t the original plan. Tennessee was supposed to use the PARCC test that goes along with Common Core classroom standards. But when lawmakers decided to back away from Common Core, they also decided to go with a new test — even though that meant hiring a company for $107 million to design a new one.

Senator Alexander chairs the education committee and previously served as the country’s top education official. But he blames the feds.

“You had the backlash to Common Core, so you had to change Common Core,” he said during a presentation to students and education officials. “Then you had to change the assessment. Well you can’t just do that overnight, and it costs a lot of money. And a lot of that was because people felt like Washington was telling Tennessee what its standards and tests ought to be.”

At the moment, state education officials are primarily pointing fingers at the company hired to create TNReady. This week, Measurement Inc. said it could not guarantee that the paper tests would be delivered in time for students to take them by the state’s deadline of May 10.

Note: Alexander’s press release on his Belmont speech is below. Continue reading

Common Core is officially no more in TN

State education officials approved new English and math standards Friday, marking the symbolic end of controversial Common Core standards in Tennessee.

Further from the Tennessean report:

Tennessee is the latest state to phase out Common Core, joining Indiana, Oklahoma and South Carolina. Like its predecessors, Tennessee’s English and math standards have a new name, but still have roots in Common Core.

Common Core standards ignited a political brawl last year when state lawmakers, who saw the standards as federal overreach, pushed to scrap them. In response to cries for state-specific standards, Gov. Bill Haslam authorized a review of the state’s English and math standards.

The state developed a more rigorous review process to assess the standards, including two online public reviews, educator review and legislative input. The review process took almost two years.

“We started with the current state standards. From there we executed an unprecedented transparent, comprehensive review and replacement process,” State Board of Education Executive Director Sara Heyburn said.

“The results were a set of new, Tennessee-specific standards brought to us by the Standards Recommendation Committee, whose members were appointed by the governor, lieutenant governor, and the speaker of the House of Representatives and confirmed by the General Assembly,” Heyburn said.

Standards set grade- and subject-specific goals in the classroom.

The state’s new standards, known as Tennessee Academic Standards, clarify the progression of standards and clarify glossary definitions of math and English standards. In math, additional clarification was added to standards regarding math formulas and several bridge math standards were eliminated to further narrow the course content.

Note: The state Board of Education news release is below. Continue reading

Haslam on Common Core: ‘Political discussion’ now in educators hands

Gov. Bill Haslam acknowledged Thursday that the fuss over the Common Core academic standards was political in its origins, and told teachers that he’s glad the conversation in Tennessee has shifted to professional educators, reports Chalkbeat Tennessee.

Speaking to the second gathering of his Teachers Cabinet in Nashville, Haslam said teachers, administrators and other education specialists are in the best position to take feedback from the latest public review and determine if revisions are needed.

“For the past two years, not just in Tennessee but the whole nation, we’ve been having this conversation about Common Core State Standards. Are they a Communist plot or are they the world’s greatest thing ever?” Haslam told the teachers, prompting laughter from the teachers assembled.

“Unfortunately, this turned into a political conversation that was very far from the classroom.”

…Tennessee adopted the Common Core with little controversy in 2010. But by 2014, the standards were the source of fiery debate in Tennessee’s General Assembly and many other state legislatures across the nation. Though teachers voiced concerns about the standards’ developmental appropriateness and the quick pace of implementation, the concerns of politicians about federal overreach ended up being the loudest.

In the spring of 2014, the legislature stymied Haslam’s attempt to roll out a Common Core-aligned state test, and the governor ordered a review of the standards the following fall. The subsequent legislative debate this year resulted in the current standards review process.

“[We] knew we wanted to take what had been a political discussion, and put it in the hands of educators who can say, ‘you know, that’s really appropriate for a fourth-grader,’ or ‘that’s really not,’” Haslam said.

As the furor has died down, Tennessee’s review process has been led mostly by educators.

“At the end of the day people say, ‘Well, how do you feel about Common Core?’ and I say ‘Well, I am not really the person to ask about what a third-grader should know. But I know some people who are,’” Haslam said.

Haslam’s Teachers Cabinet is comprised of 18 teachers who were nominated in June by their district superintendents across the state. The body meets quarterly in Nashville and was created by the governor in an effort to include more educators in policy decisions.

During Thursday’s meeting, Haslam sought feedback about how state government could improve teacher evaluations and testing.

“Don’t hold back!” he told his cabinet. “We asked you here because we want to hear what you have to say.”

The teachers complied, sharing concerns about everything from the teacher evaluation rubric — which they said can be too detailed in some places — to the validity of evaluation scores. Some teachers told Haslam that their principals erroneously believe that they could only give a limited number of teachers the highest possible ranking.

Protesters: Common Core means teaching Islam

More than 100 people turned out at Vance Middle School in Bristol on Friday to protest teaching of Islam in public schools, according to the Bristol Herald Courier.

Seventh-graders at Vance do study Islam and go over the five pillars of faith in a historical context and the curriculum also covers the foundations of Christianity and Judaism, school officials said. It’s part of the controversial Common Core curriculum, which is state-mandated.

According to Amy Scott, principal at Vance Middle School, administrators have taken great pains to ensure that all three religions are covered equally.

Protest organizer Patty Kinkead said she knew that the school system could not make changes to the Common Core curriculum, but the purpose of the demonstration was to raise awareness about what she believes is being taught.

“If we can enlighten two parents to what’s being taught then this has been a successful day,” Kinkead said. “We are hoping to create a spark so that other people will want to protest Common Core across the state. The protest is not about Vance Middle School or the teachers; it’s about Common Core and the teaching of Islam in the curriculum. ”

Kinkead removed her fourth-grader from the city school division and is home-schooling him because she’s opposed to Common Core.

Note: See also the Columbia Daily Herald, which has a story beginning thusly:

Maury County parents are expressing concern after their children came home with world history schoolwork containing references to Islam and its teachings. The school district contends the curriculum has been in place for more than three decades, and world history is difficult to teach without referencing religions.

Haslam, Harwell, Ramsey appoint education standards review panel

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Gov. Bill Haslam and the speakers of the House and Senate have appointed the 10 members of a committee established to review K-12 education standards in Tennessee.

Haslam appointed Sharen Cypress, dean of education at Freed-Hardeman University; Tracy Franklin, principal at Steekee Elementary School in Loudon; Amy Gullion, instructional coach at Smyrna Elementary School; and Doug Hungate, academic director at Cheatham County Central High School.

Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey selected former Early Reading First director Shirley Curry of Waynesboro, teacher Darcie Finch of Nashville and Kingsport Schools Superintendent Lyle Ailshie.

House Speaker Beth Harwell’s appointments are Cathy Kolb, a special educator at Moore Magnet STEM Elementary in Clarksville; Shannon Duncan, assistant principal at Tullahoma High School; and David Pickler, former chairman of the Shelby County Board of Education from Germantown.

18 named to ‘Governor’s Teacher Cabinet’ (with list)

News release from the governor’s office:
NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced 18 Tennessee teachers selected to serve on the first Governor’s Teacher Cabinet.

The cabinet will meet quarterly with Haslam and Education Commissioner Candice McQueen to share real-time information from the classroom, advise on policy considerations and provide a direct line of communication to schools and communities.

A year ago the governor travelled the state to hear from groups of teachers, and in December, he announced plans to create the cabinet in an effort to improve teacher communication and collaboration.

“We’ve had a number of conversations with teachers in a variety of settings, and this is another way to receive direct feedback from teachers who are in front of a class every day,” Haslam said. “As Tennessee continues to build on the success we’ve seen in our schools over the past four years, we want to hear from teachers about what is working and what needs improvement. These teachers have a lot on their plates, so I really appreciate their willingness to serve the state in this way.”
Continue reading

State website reviewers want to keep most Common Core standards

Tennessee’s six-month-long public review of the Common Core State Standards garnered more than 131,000 reviews of various academic benchmarks, reports Chalkbeat, citing numbers released by the state Department of Education. More than half favored K-12 standards currently in place.

In all, 2,262 Tennesseans participated in the online review conducted between Nov. 6 and April 30. Participants were given opportunity to say “keep it,” “remove it” or “replace it” as they reviewed up to 2,000 standards for math and English. If they selected to remove or replace a standard, they had to explain why in a comment.

When the review was complete, the state website had logged 131,424 reviews and 20,344 comments, with 73,000 of the reviews opting to “keep it.”

Although the review was open to any Tennessee resident, the vast majority of participants — 1,164 in all — were teachers. Next were parents (320), K-12 administrators (141), and other community members (94). Fifteen K-12 students participated, as did seven elected officials.

Gov. Bill Haslam ordered the review last October in response to a growing backlash against the standards due to charges of federal overreach, among other thing… The next step is for the State Board of Education and the Southern Regional Education Board, a private firm helping manage the review, to prepare data reports based on the public review. Those reports will go to committees of educators appointed by Haslam as part of the review process and scheduled to convene June 3 for the first time.

…In a telephone news conference later Thursday, Haslam said he is confident in the review process.

“All of the discussion about Common Core and some of the political issues around that, we were determined to not have that distract us from having great standards in Tennessee,” he said. “What we said is these standards have been in place for four years. We’ve had teachers teaching them for four years. We’ve gained a lot of understanding and experience. Let’s go now and look and review and make certain that we come out with even better standards.”

TN NAACP leader backs Common Core standards

Tennessee NAACP leaders are supporting Common Core standards as a step toward equity for lower income, minority students, reports the Jackson Sun.

“The needs for high standards and quality schools and teachers is universal,” said Gloria Sweet-Love, president of the Tennessee State Conference of the NAACP. “But in the United States low income students and students of color are disproportionately taught in low performance schools and are not gaining knowledge and skills they need to succeed in college and the work force.”

The forum was held Thursday at Lane College to discuss the Common Core State Standards.

…All five panelists supported the standards, saying they will help students graduate high school prepared for college or a career.

Clarence Boone, president of the Jackson-Madison County African American Chamber of Commerce, said he has known students who came into Madison County who had nothing left to learn from Jackson-Madison County Schools.

“And when they would leave, they would be so far behind that it would almost be embarrassing,” Boone said. “I think that Common Core is the answer if we can get all the pieces together.”

Sweet-Love said the standards would force educators to set high goals for their students and would keep students from falling behind if they moved to a different state or school district.

“Common, high academic standards offer us tremendous potential for bridging the gaps facing our children and our nation,” Sweet-Love said.

Ramsey says there’s a Common Core agreement and ‘everybody seems to be happy’

By Lucas L. Johnson II, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey said Thursday that an agreement has been reached on legislation that would keep the state’s current academic standards intact — for now — despite efforts to repeal them.

The Blountville Republican told reporters that the agreement was made this week.

“Everybody seems to be happy and signed off on it,” Ramsey said.

The state’s standards include the contentious Common Core standards for English and math intended to make students more competitive.

Common Core has been a lightning rod in Tennessee and nationally. Conservative critics argue that the standards represent federal intrusion into state matters, while those on the left say they impose too many requirements on teachers.

The standards have been adopted by 44 states, but growing criticism led lawmakers in more than two dozen states to propose either delaying or revoking Common Core last year.

Common Core opponents have said they don’t have a problem with higher academic standards, they just want them to be created at the state level.

Ramsey issued a statement later Thursday stating the standards could change during the review process to reflect that sentiment.

“I believe the current compromise legislation puts in place a review process that will allow us to … replace it (Common Core) with Tennessee standards based on Tennessee values,” he said.
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New Common Core bill gets House sub OK — it ‘strengthens’ Haslam’s review process

By Lucas Johnson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Legislation that seeks to strengthen the governor’s review process of the state’s academic standards is raising questions about whether an additional recommendation committee is necessary, and who will be on it.

The proposal sponsored by Republican Rep. Billy Spivey of Lewisburg advanced out of a House education subcommittee Wednesday.

The measure would keep the state’s current standards, which include the controversial Common Core state standards for English and math. It would also make law a public review process of the standards created by Republican Gov. Bill Haslam.

The governor’s process currently has two committees and advisory teams for those committees to review the higher standards aimed at improving schools and students’ competitiveness across the nation.

Spivey’s proposal would create a standards recommendation committee to be appointed by the governor and the speakers of the Senate and House.

The governor’s office didn’t immediately respond to comment about the proposal.

Teresa Wasson, spokeswoman for the State Collaborative on Reforming Education, an advocate for Common Core, said the group is pleased the proposal doesn’t change the standards. She said keeping them intact would provide stability for educators and keep the state on track to do a new assessment next year.

But she questioned the need for another review committee, and its makeup.

“The primary questions are what is the value of this extra layer of review … and are the members of that committee going to be well qualified to make decisions and recommendations about academic standards,” Wasson said.

House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh said he too would like to see the committee have educational expertise, as well as Democratic representation.

“I don’t mean to interject politics, but I think we need the various points of view that the two party systems will give us,” said the Ripley Democrat.

Conservative critics argue that the common education standards represent federal intrusion in matters that should be decided by the state, while those on the left say they impose too many requirements on teachers.

There was little controversy when the bipartisan National Governors Association in 2009 helped develop the standards, which were quickly adopted by 44 states. But growing criticism led lawmakers in more than two dozen states to propose either delaying or revoking Common Core last year.

In Tennessee, Common Core opponents want to repeal the current standards and replace them with ones developed at the state level. At least one bill proposed this legislative session seeks to do that.

That being the case, Wasson said Spivey’s proposal is tolerable.

“Compared to other proposed legislation, this bill is a move in the right direction,” she said.

(Note: The bill is HB1035, apparently filed as a caption bill. The amendment is not yet on the legislative website.)