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Will Tennessee follow Indiana’s Common Core exodus?

Posted on Tuesday, April 8, 2014 at 2:06 pm

Indiana is the first state to formally withdraw from the Common Core education standards, and pending questions at the local level have at least one Franklin County Board of Education member questioning whether it might be better if Tennessee did the same thing.

imagesChris Guess said Common Core appears as though it will be taking control over the educational curriculum out of local school boards’ hands and placing much more of it at the federal level.

He described the federal position in the matter as “lip service,” because the Common Core standards don’t accurately refl ect educational paths.

Guess said the graduation rates are unrealistic. He said the focus has been on increasing graduation rates, which has led to lower standards just to get underachievers through school. He added, that to accurately refl ect how the students are performing academically, the focus needs to be taken off the graduation rates and placed on learning the basics.

“It’s just lip service,” he said, referring to the process and the graduation rates. “It’s just a number on a page.”

Guess said recently that the standards are getting away from what students need to be learning in the first place — the basics of reading, writing and arithmetic.

He used a math example at a recent School Board meeting where three steps were taken to solve an addition problem rather than simply teaching the students to add two numbers together.

“We’re getting the cart before the horse,” he said.

In Indiana’s case, growing criticism over costs imposed by the program, as well as fears that by setting a national education standard, the program has already begun dictating curriculum, according to an Associated Press report.

Although the program has Republican and Democrat supporters, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence predicted his state will be the first of many to rethink participation.

“I believe when we reach the end of this process there are going to be many other states around the country that will take a hard look at the way Indiana has taken a step back, designed our own standards and done it in a way where we drew on educators, we drew on citizens, we drew on parents and developed standards that meet the needs of our people,” Pence said.

The Common Core State Standards Initiative, originally drafted by state education superintendents working with the National Governors Association, and since embraced by the Obama administration, seeks to impose a national standard for achievement among K-12 students. Some states began implementation this year, with the majority slated to begin in the fall.

But several states, including Tennessee, are seeing a backlash against participation, which was typically approved as long as five years ago. Jim Stergios, executive director of the nonpartisan, Boston-based think tank Pioneer Institute, said the Hoosier State’s move could “open the floodgates.”

“Indiana, under [Republican Gov.] Mitch Daniels, was one of the early proponents of Common Core, even the poster child,” Stergios told FoxNews. com. “By pulling out, it sends a strong signal to other states, particularly red states, that, ‘Hey, if they can do this, then why can’t we?’”

Common Core officials said in a statement the decision was Indiana’s to make, and pledged to work with the state in whatever way was possible.

“States have always been in full control of determining which standards are right for their students,” Carissa Miller, deputy executive director for the Council of Chief State School Offi cers, said in a statement. “CCSSO has stated from the beginning of this effort that we support states in choosing higher, clearer standards that prepare students for college and career and that the Common Core was one path. We look forward to continuing to support Indiana with their college and career-ready standards.”

When the Franklin County Board recently discussed Common Core and how it will be implemented in the next few academic years, several members expressed concern that many issues related to the process remain unresolved.

Board Member Lance Williams explained his position this past week.

“I still have a lot of unanswered questions about Common Core,” he said. “At our March board meeting, Dr. (Rebecca) Sharber presented a State of Tennessee presentation of Common Core that had some interesting points.

“Tennessee’s literature gives a lot of ‘half-truths’ as I would call them. We are told by the State of Tennessee that Common Core does not dictate curriculum, only standards. So how are these ‘set of standards’ met if a school system does not develop their curriculum to mimic those standards?”

Williams also said school boards are told textbook selection is governed strictly by the local school boards, but they are given a list of five or six books from which to choose.

“Does that sound like the textbook selection is governed strictly by the FC School Board?” Williams asked.

He also said data collection was another topic he found interesting.

“The state tells us that Common Core is not a tool for data collection, then why are so many ‘technology’ companies involved in the Common Core movement?” he said. “Can that many for-profit companies really care about Tennessee students?

“It appears to me that many states were looking for a way to opt-out of No Child Left Behind, and Common Core was the option.”

In light of Indiana’s decision, Sharber provided her outlook.

“I think the Common Core Standards are good standards,” she said. “ They represent what we want students to know and to be able to do. They will challenge our students to solve problems and think more deeply.

“I do believe moving to the Common Core Standards is in the students’ best interests. Education is already controlled by all governments, local, state, and federal in some way. If Common Core is abandoned, we do not have a set of standards to teach that is not affected in some way by Common Core.”