Tag Archives: common core

Columnist blasts ‘ineptness of the effort’ in defending Common Core

The beginning of a Frank Cagle column:

It’s a pity the proponents of Common Core decided to drink the Kool-Aid, lock arms and march in lockstep. It produced the attitude that the education standards were perfect and anyone who suggested improvements or changes was anti-education or some sort of Neanderthal.

They lost some of their natural allies, like some teachers and superintendents, who had concerns that were ignored. The Common Core group — the business community, Gov. Bill Haslam and groups like SCORE — mishandled it badly. I have never seen so much talent and money squandered for so little result. It was a monumental failure and I don’t believe they understand to this day how badly they blew it.

You spend $200,000 on a lobbyist and then get ambushed on the House floor, losing with 80-some-odd votes against you, and you didn’t see it coming? It was the most dramatic example of the ineptness of the effort.

You see, critics had said the implementation of the new standards was moving too fast, that a new test and a new curriculum were needed. The Legislature listened and derailed implementation for a year. The delay allowed even more critics to emerge. Haslam himself has now ordered up a two-year review of the standards.

Now there’s a task force on testing (AP story and news release)

By Lucas Johnson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A new task force will review student testing and assessment amid concerns that students are being overtested, the state Education Department announced Monday.

The group is charged with identifying best practices in testing and how those assessments align with required state tests.

“We have heard some concerns that there is ‘too much testing’ taking place,” said Education Commissioner Candace McQueen. “So as education leaders and stakeholders, it’s important that we clearly understand current testing policies and practices at both the state and local levels.”

Jim Wrye, assistant executive director of the Tennessee Education Association, the state’s largest teachers’ union, said he’s pleased to see the panel formed.

“When you’re losing the time to teach because you are testing and testing again, you have lost the purpose of what tests are supposed to be,” he said.

The formation of the panel comes at a time when the state is preparing to administer an assessment that aligns with the state’s current academic standards, which include the controversial Common Core state standards for English and math.

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.
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Price tag on ditching Common Core: $4.14 million

A bill requiring Tennessee’s State Board of Education to drop Common Core education standards and develop new requirements is projected to cost $4.14 million over a three-year period, reports the Times-Free Press.

The “fiscal note,” or cost analysis, was developed by the Legislature’s Fiscal Review Committee staff. It doesn’t necessarily kill the legislation. But with Republican Gov. Bill Haslam insisting on his own Common Core review process, it does make the bill harder to pass because budgetary considerations now come into play.

The bill is slated to come up Wednesday in the House Education Instruction and Programs Subcommittee. Its House sponsor, Rep. John Forgety, R-Athens, chairman of the full Education Instruction and Programs Committee, said he was aware of the fiscal note but had not had time to delve into the issue.

“I thought the process [of new standards] should be up to the education community and the parents of the children,” Forgety said of his bill.

Sen. Jim Tracy, R-Shelbyville, the bill’s Senate sponsor, said, “I don’t know how they come up with that big fiscal note.”

…The fiscal note (HERE) on the Forgety/Tracy bill examines the costs of adding a full-time employee to the State Board of Education, and of of having two standards review and development committees with at least eight members and at least six advisory committees of nine members each.

Based on information provided by the State Board of Education on previous development processes, the fiscal note says stipends are traditionally paid to “incentivize, attract, and retain the necessary level of expertise.” Travel costs are provided for as well as hotel expenses.

Add all those costs up and it generates expenditures estimated at $668,000 in 2015/2016; $3.09 million in 2016/2017 and $293,700 in 2017/2018. There would be a recurring cost for the new State Board employee of $93,700 in 2018/2019 and following years.

Pro-Haslam education group spent $137K airing TV ad

Since Dec. 29, Tennesseans for Student Success, a nonprofit group headed by Gov. Bill Haslam’s 2014 campaign manager, Jeremy Harrell, has spent $137,000 broadcasting a 30-second spot in the Nashville and Knoxville media markets, according to a Times Free Press review of Tennessee-based television stations’ political advertising files.

The ad even aired on Nashville NBC affiliate WSMV-TV during the Super Bowl.

The spot features a series of teachers and parents saying, “We have the fastest-improving schools in the nation. Yet some politicians want to drag us back to the days of lower standards, less accountability and fewer choices for parents. And that’s why they need to hear from us.”

The group, which has at least six staffers, has also hired seven lobbyists, including three principals at top-flight firm McMahan and Winstead, state Ethics Commission filings show.

The aggressive effort comes in the midst of a push by legislative critics to roll back or replace the state’s Common Core standards. For his part, Haslam is seeking public input with an eye toward putting more of a Tennessee thumbprint on the national standards for English language arts and math.

Haslam says the standards were key to Tennessee students having made the fastest learning gains of any state in the nation in 2013.

But conservative critics attack Common Core, which began as a states-led effort but later was embraced by President Barack Obama, as federal “overreach.”

…Harrell said the group’s purpose is “to protect the gains made in public education throughout Tennessee.”

“The education gains we’ve made in recent years are worth celebrating, worth defending and worth continuing,” he added.

In an email, Harrell said the group has run cable ads “in all major markets” including Chattanooga, Memphis and the Tri-cities, as well as radio ads. He did not specify a dollar amount when asked. The group also has sent direct mail into some districts.

As for who is funding the effort, Harrell said, “People who care very deeply about improving student achievement in Tennessee, and want to continue to build on the progress we’ve made.”

Asked whether Haslam sanctions the group’s activities, Haslam spokesman David Smith said by email that “Tennesseans for Student Success is an independent organization that supports continued education gains in Tennessee.”

Initial vote on Common Core study bill delayed

Action on a bill setting up a second review process on Tennessee’s Common Core education standards was delayed today by its sponsor as some lawmakers explore whether it can be merged with Republican Gov. Bill Haslam’s own on-going process, reports the Times-Free Press.

Rep. John Forgety, R-Athens, chairman of the House Education Instruction and Programs Committee, agreed to postpone a planned subcommittee vote on his bill at the request of Rep. Billy Spivey, R-Lewisburg.

Spivey told the panel he had had an “epiphany” this morning that “may well eliminate the need for a bill of this nature.”

“Well, it’s just something you got to get right,” Spivey said. “I’d rather it take longer to cook and it be done when we digest it than just rush through the process.”

He later told reporters he had asked Forgety for a chance to speak with the administration and House leaders.

“I’d rather reveal it to them first, if you don’t mind,” Spivey said.

Haslam’s administration is already reviewing the controversial standards, which have become a lightening rod for social conservatives and others, in a process that involves allowing the public to weigh in with recommended changes on a website.

List of 114 school supers urging no 2015 change in academic standards

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Tennessee Organization of School Superintendents is asking lawmakers not to change the state’s Common Core academic standards this legislative session.

The group announced at a news conference on Tuesday that it’s sending a letter signed by 114 state superintendents and school district directors to all members of the General Assembly.

Common Core opponents in Tennessee want to repeal the current standards and replace them with ones developed at the state level. Several lawmakers have proposed bills that seek to do that.

Meanwhile, Republican Gov. Bill Haslam has set up a public review process of the standards.

The superintendents say in their letter that legislation to change the standards would pre-empt the review process, which they’d like to see fully unfold.

Note: There are 141 school districts in Tennessee, according to TOSS, meaning 27 superintendents did not sign the letter. The TOSS news release,a list of those signing and text of the letter are below.
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Haslam moves on to fighting over the ‘ruined’ brand of Common Core standards

By Eric Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE — Fresh off his failed effort to convince fellow Republicans in the Legislature that he wasn’t peddling “Obama- care,” Gov. Bill Haslam is pivoting to another tough fight over what he describes as the ruined brand of Common Core education standards.

During last week’s special session on his proposal to extend health insurance to 280,000 low-income Tennesseans, the governor was unable to persuade enough lawmakers that “Insure Tennessee is not Obama-care” to get even a single committee to advance it.

The governor acknowledged a day after the proposal’s defeat that his next challenge will be to keep Tennessee’s rigorous education standards while abandoning the “worthless” brand of Common Core despised by groups ranging from teachers to tea partiers.

“With that brand, anybody who didn’t like anything about what’s happening in education, they’d say, ‘Well, that’s Common Core,'” Haslam told editors and publishers at a Tennessee Press Association meeting.

Common Core is a set of English and math standards that spell out what students should know and when. The standards for elementary math have confounded some parents by departing from traditional methods to emphasize how numbers relate to each other.

Conservative critics argue that they 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.

“I just realized that fixing the brand is too hard,” Haslam said. “There’s certainly hills you should die on, but dying on a brand that people feel that way about, I don’t think is smart.”
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Ketron resolution asks Congress to stop federal education intrusion

By Lucas Johnson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee lawmakers are turning to the federal government for help with a task that might seem self-contradictory – keeping the federal government at bay.

In one of several efforts to push back against what they see as federal overreach, Republican state lawmakers are pushing a resolution asking Congress, with its new Republican majority in the Senate as well as the House, to help put the brakes on Common Core education standards.

“Basically, it sends a message from the state of Tennessee that we do not want the dictation from the feds down to us,” said state Sen. Bill Ketron, a Murfreesboro Republican and co-sponsor of the measure. “It urges them to pass a bill that gives that authority back to the states.”

The resolution urges Congress in part to “end the decades of federal intrusion in state and local education policy decisions, and eliminate burdensome federal education mandates on states and local school systems.”

Ketron acknowledged the resolution takes aim at higher English and math standards, which became a hot button issue during the last legislative session and continue to be this year. Even before lawmakers convened earlier this month, a measure was filed in November to repeal Tennessee’s Common Core standards.

The standards, intended to provide students with the critical thinking, problem solving and writing skills needed for college and the workforce, have been phased into classrooms in Tennessee for the past three years. They have encountered growing resistance locally and nationally from conservatives and tea party supporters who say the federal government is attempting to take over local education.
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Pro-Haslam education group buys Superbowl TV time

Tennesseans for Student Success, a recently-formed organization that supports Gov. Bill Haslam in his education policy efforts, will be running this ad during the Superbowl on Nashville and Knoxville TV stations, according to Ashley Elizabeth Graham, the group’s communications director.

The organization’s executive director is Jeremy Harrell, who most recently served as manager of Haslam’s reelection campaign and, before that, as director of constituent services in the governor’s administration.

Here’s the ad script:

Our Children are TN Future.

And their education is our responsibility.

And that’s why we changed the system to put students first.

Now we have the fastest improving schools in the nation.

Yet, some politicians want to drag us back to the days of lower standards, less accountability, and fewer choices for parents.

And that’s why they need to hear from us.

So tell your legislators to focus on results not rhetoric

And get involved @ tnsuccess.org

Gresham ready to revise Common Core bill after talks with teachers

UPDATE/Note: Apparently prompted by this story, Sen. Gresham issued a statement Friday on her bill. It’s at the bottom of the post.

By Lucas Johnson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A co-sponsor of legislation to repeal Tennessee’s Common Core standards said Thursday the measure is likely to change after discussions with teachers and other educators who say the higher benchmarks in English and math are helping students.

Senate Education Committee Chairwoman Dolores Gresham and Senate Government Operations Committee Chairman Mike Bell, both Republicans, filed the proposal in November. Bell did not immediately return a call seeking comment on Thursday.

But Gresham told The Associated Press that she’s now OK with the current standards after talking with teachers and other educators who have convinced her that “children are really learning.”

“I have talked to teachers who have told me in so many words, at last, we are no longer dumbing down our children,” she said. “That kind of encouragement is very important when other people are not so enthusiastic.”

The standards spell out what students should know and when. They have been adopted by most states, and are intended to provide students with the critical thinking, problem solving and writing skills needed for college and the workforce.

However, there has been continued political pressure about the standards. Tea party groups have derided Common Core as government overreach, while some teachers’ groups have complained that the standards rely too heavily on student test scores. The scores are, in turn, used to evaluate teacher performance.
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