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VOL. 37 | NO. 38 | Friday, September 20, 2013

Senate committee questions Common Core standards

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NASHVILLE (AP) - Senate Education Committee members expressed concerns Friday about Tennessee's Common Core standards during a hearing on the issue.

The Common Core provides a set of standards for reading and math that are intended to provide students with the critical thinking, problem solving and writing skills needed to prepare them for college and the workforce.

The standards have been voluntarily adopted by 45 states. Tennessee adopted the Common Core standards in 2010 and began a three-year phase-in the following year.

One of the biggest concerns at the Friday hearing was that testing on the new standards will lead to unwanted data collection on Tennessee students.

One representative from the Washington-based American Principles Project told committee members the standards are part of a scheme that would help achieve what she described as a longtime goal of progressive education reformers to collect data on students for th e federal government.

State Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman said that student privacy is a very important issue, but that those concerns exist outside of Common Core. Huffman said Tennessee already has outside agencies assessing its test scores now.

Former state Sen. Jamie Woodson, who now is president and CEO of the education nonprofit State Collaborative on Reforming Education (or SCORE), addressed similar concerns.

Woodson said she was heavily involved in the educational reform leading up to the adoption of the new standards. She said Tennessee's recent educational initiatives were not driven by the federal government. Woodson said they were a bottom-up endeavor sparked by a 2007 U.S. Chamber of Commerce report that showed Tennessee standards were "rock-bottom."

Senators suggested that they might be able to keep the standards but create their own assessments.

Other concerns from some of the speakers were that implementing Common Core stan dards is too expensive and that the standards are not good enough.

Huffman said much of the spending has already taken place, and much of the money for professional development and textbooks would have been spent anyway.

"Sometimes people talk about Common Core as an event that is going to happen and we're not sure what it's going to look like," he said. "We have already been implementing over the last few years."

That includes the training of 30,000 teachers.

Another speaker, Trousdale County Schools Director Clint Satterfield, testified that he already has seen the results of implementing Common Core standards in his schools. That includes rising test scores, especially among economically disadvantaged students.

Satterfield choked up when he described how his own father came from generations of sharecroppers but was able to go to college and better himself. He said that many students today don't get that opportunity because of the low expectati ons placed on them.

"These may not be the best standards, but they're a heck of a lot better than what we have," he said.