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VOL. 38 | NO. 12 | Friday, March 21, 2014

Senate sponsor says compromise near on Common Core

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NASHVILLE (AP) - The Senate sponsor of a contentious proposal to delay further implementation of Tennessee's Common Core education standards for two years said Tuesday that a compromise is close on the legislation.

Earlier this month, a broad coalition of Republican and Democratic House members passed a bill seeking to delay implementation of the new standards, as well as the testing component for the standards for the same amount of time.

The Senate would have to agree to those provisions before the measure would head to the desk of Republican Gov. Bill Haslam, who has said he's against delaying the standards.

Sen. Frank Niceley, R-Strawberry Plains, told The Associated Press on Tuesday that he's been talking with the governor and they're close to an agreement.

"We're working toward a nice compromise," said Niceley, who didn't elaborate on the discussions.

Tennessee is among a number of states across the country where the Common Core initiative is causing division among Republicans.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce leads establishment voices - such as possible presidential contender Jeb Bush - who hail the standards as a way to improve student performance and, over the long term, competitiveness of American workers.

Many archconservatives - tea party heroes Rand Paul and Ted Cruz among them - decry the system as a top-down takeover of local schools.

And tea party-aligned officials and candidates want to delay the standards or abandon them altogether in at least a dozen of the 45 states that adopted some part of the guidelines. Indiana Gov. Mike Pence on Monday signed the first Common Core repeal to make it through a legislature.

In Tennessee, proposals to do away with the standards and their assessment component failed in a House subcommittee earlier this month.

Haslam is among supporters who say the standards - developed by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers - are needed to better prepare students for the future. They're intended to provide students with the critical thinking, problem solving and writing skills needed for college and the workforce.

The standards, which are mainly new benchmarks for math and reading, have been voluntarily adopted by 45 states. Tennessee adopted them in 2010 and began a three-year phase-in the following year.

State education officials say the standards have been fully implemented, but the assessment opponent isn't scheduled to take effect until next year, which is one of the main reason supporters of the standards are against the delay.

Haslam in a speech to the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday urged business leaders to take direct action in supporting the standards. He said lawmakers will listen to employers in their districts.

"There's nothing that takes the place of personal engagement," Haslam told reporters after his speec h.

The governor also acknowledged that he met Tuesday with a group of senators and is "continuing conversations" with them. He didn't mention a compromise, but reiterated his stance on not delaying the standards.

"I do think this is really important for Tennessee," said Haslam, citing the recognition the state is getting nationally for its improvement in education.

"Why would we as a state that's the fastest improving ... in the country turn around and back up now."