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VOL. 39 | NO. 6 | Friday, February 6, 2015

Tennessee superintendents seek to keep Common Core standards intact

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NASHVILLE (AP) - A majority of Tennessee's school superintendents want to see a review process of the state's Common Core academic standards fully unfold before lawmakers try to change the standards.

The Tennessee Organization of School Superintendents announced Tuesday that it's sending a letter signed by 114 state superintendents and school district directors to all members of the General Assembly, asking them not to change the standards this legislative session.

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, Gov. Bill Haslam has set up a public review process of the English and math standards that spell out what students should know and when.

The superintendents say any legislation to change the standards would pre-empt the review process, which they'd like to see run its cou rse.

"There has been unprecedented participation in the review process, especially by Tennessee teachers," the letter states. "We ask that their input be valued and that we move forward with efforts to improve and enhance our current standards and truly make them our own, while also giving educators and students the stability they desire and deserve."

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.

There was little controversy when the bipartisan National Governors Association in 2009 helped develop the standards aimed at improving schools and students' competitiveness across the nation. The standards were quickly adopted by 44 states, but growing criticism has led lawmakers in more than two dozen states to propose either delaying or revoking Common Core last year.

In Tennessee, lawmakers managed to delay the testing component of the standards during the last legislative session. The superintendents said in their letter that another reason for not changing the standards is because they will be administering an assessment that aligns with the current standards in the spring of 2016.

"Teachers have been working hard and preparing for this assessment," according to the letter. "It would be a huge blow to the morale of educators if the General Assembly passes legislation that puts Tennessee on a path to change standards once again or that alters the timeline for the new assessment."

Haslam talked about the standards' review process in his State of the State address Monday evening, noting the website set up to receive comments has gotten nearly 82,000 so far.

In the spring, he said the Southern Regional Education Board - an independent, third-party organization - will collect the information from the website and it will be analyzed by six advisory teams made up of Tennessee educators.

Those teams will then make recommendations to two expert committees of educators, which will then propose changes to the State Board of Education.

In his speech Monday, Haslam said he wants to see standards that "allow our students to compete with anyone in the world."

When told about the superintendents' letter, Haslam spokesman Dave Smith reiterated that sentiment on Tuesday.

"A big part of the governor's speech last night was focused on how critical it is that we get education right in Tennessee, and making sure we have the highest standards possible is an important part of that," Smith said.

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