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Business, Free Enterprise and Constitutional Issues; Pro-Life and Pro Second Amendment. Susan Lynn is a member of the Tennessee General Assembly. She serves as Chairman of the Consumer and Human Resources subcommittee, a member of the Finance Ways and Means Committee and the Ethics Committee. She holds a BS in economics and a minor in history.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Common Core Standards

I am not pro-common core but I am opposed to Tennessee's former standards which I know without a doubt were not rigorous enough.  I learned that by serving for eight years on Congressman Jim Cooper's Academy Selection Committee (2002-10).  We would meet annually in order to interview young high school seniors who wanted to attend one of our nation's military academies. I saw the same problem year after year - many of the public school students would come to us with 4.0 - 4.5 GPA's, and they were very proud of their grades but their ACT scores were 19, 20, 21.  It was clear to me - we were not being honest with our students, and our standards were not rigorous enough.

In Tennessee the state board of education only adopted the English and mathematics Common Core standards.  The standards for all other subjects are home-grown Tennessee created standards.

Education is, and should be, a state and local issue.  Like other states, Tennessee’s Constitution provides that each student shall be provided a taxpayer funded education.  The state board of education in Tennessee, like other states, has clearly stated, minimum educational standards for what students must be taught each year on a grade level by grade level basis. 

The standards are not curriculum. The standards are not textbooks.  But rather, the standards state what students will be taught and indeed shall be taught concerning a particular subject for their given grade level. 

So how does it all work together?  The standards are the minimum of what will be taught in a given grade. Textbook companies use the state standards to develop textbooks to teach the concepts in the standards.  The state textbook commission reviews textbooks submitted by textbook companies in order to ensure that each standard is covered in the books. The local school districts choose textbooks from the list of approved books or they find textbooks on their own. Annually, we learn how well students were taught the standards by use of a standardized test. And lastly, the Tennessee Value Added Assessment System (TVASS) reviews the tests to learn if students have shown growth in their educational progress.

Much like building codes which define the minimum standards for constructing a safe dwelling; state education standards are only a minimum standard.  However, this minimum provides a degree of assurance that students will receive equal protection of the law and equal opportunity in content.  And of course, some schools and talented teachers teach above the state minimum education standards - we all strive to live in districts that do that. 

The good thing about standards is that each year parents can review the standards in order to understand what their child will be taught, and at the end of the year, in addition to standardized testing results, parents can gauge for themselves whether their child learned what the standards prescribe.  

In Tennessee, as in many states, the state education standards are created by the state board of education much the same as all state government rules under which we as citizens of the state are required to live; they are created with input from citizens and interested organizations.  After creation, the standards are publicly adopted, recorded and put into practice.

Every so often, the state education standards are unpacked, reviewed and updated.  Tennessee’s standards are in their third state of revision. 

Revision usually produces controversy but this time there is a lot of upset because the state board of education chose do away with Tennessee’s current standards for English and mathematics (which were a combination of home grown standards for the lower grades and standards called the Tennessee Diploma Project (adopted in '09) for high school), and instead the state DOE adopted standards called Common Core Education Standards.  Common Core was not developed by the Tennessee Board of Education, et al. but rather by three national organizations through a joint effort that took several years.  

In reality, it is not uncommon to create legislation, rules or policy by using some sort of prepared template written by a public policy group.  In fact, it happens all the time, and several national non-profit organizations exist solely to bring legislators, industry leaders, community members and others together to work out legislative proposals in order to provide solutions to common issues among the states.

The Common Core standards were created as a joint project of three non-profit organizations; Achieve Inc., the National Governors Association, and the Council of Chief State Schools Officers.   

There is a good timeline for the development of the Common Core Standards on Achieve’s website above.

Below are the Common Core standards for your reading.  Tennessee reviewed them by committee before adoption but I am unsure if they were changed.  I am told that generally they are much the same as you will find on the links I have provided below.  I copied and pasted them here but if any of the links are broken please let me know by commenting and I will fix them. Also, if you see anything disturbing please let me know.  I have read through them myself.  I am not an educator so I do not know if they should be considered rigorous but please let me know what you find.

A complaint about the old standards is that they were too specific - not open ended at all - so "teaching to the test" was a real problem.  See what you think of these new standards for English and mathematics and feel free to comment.

Common Core Mathematics Standards

 Common Core English Standards

Reading: Literature

Reading: Informational Text

Reading: Foundational Skills


Speaking & Listening


Language Progressive Skills

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