Common Core-nundrum: Politics Have Steamrolled Tennessee’s Standards at a High Price

Common Core was barely in any Tennessean’s vernacular before a concerted effort by state legislators led to the repeal of Common Core this past May. Amid the political rancor and heated debate on Common Core exists one large problem: Students have never actually taken a statewide standardized test aligned with the Common Core. Students have only thus far taken TCAP (Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program), which is not aligned to the Common Core. To better understand how the repeal has hurt students and the state, however, a brief history is in order.

Some Backstory

The Tennessee State Board of Education adopted Common Core standards for math and English in 2010, with the goal of fully integrating Common Core into its standards for the 2013-2014 school year. However the state continues to use TCAP, based on standards adopted by the state in 2008. Tennessee had planned on using a Common Core-aligned assessment during the 2014-2015 school year, but the Tennessee legislature voted to delay and continue using TCAP. Thus, because of shifts in the  political winds, Tennessee students have never been tested on material based on the Common Core standards. In order to resolve this, Tennessee students will be taking a Common Core-aligned assessment next spring known as TNReady. However, this test will be administered after lawmakers voted to repeal Common Core. Confusing?

Catch the Charade

This testing debacle, and overall Common Core debate, has been fueled by politics. One reason Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey offered in support of the repeal was, at best, vague. Ramsey claimed that:
Tennessee [needs to] remain economically competitive…it is crucial to establish high Tennessee standards.
State Senator Mike Bell, who introduced the bill to repeal Common Core, made the politics of the repeal much more clear when he said Common Core is "[an] agenda-driven education from Washington." Common Core has even caused inter-party turmoil, pitting Republicans in the Tennessee legislature at odds with Bill Haslam, our state’s Republican governor who was an adamant supporter of Common Core. Republicans in the Tennessee legislature have fought Haslam on Common Core, attempting to preempt Gov. Haslam’s public review of Common Core and accusing him of championing educational “gambits” by attempting to keep Common Core. Haslam eventually gave in to the GOP backlash, claiming that Common Core’s “ brand” was ruined. The likely motive by Tennessee Republicans is that they are trying to distance themselves from an “Obama-backed” Common Core. Even if they agree with Common Core, it may have a negative political effect to support something that the president supports. This would not be uncommon either—states like Indiana and Oklahoma have stripped the name while leaving many standards intact. Separate from the political charade that exists with standards and testing in the state of Tennessee is the enormous price tag for the projected standards change. The estimated cost of the repeal is roughly $4 million, a large expenditure for an already underfunded public education system. The repeal of Common Core in Tennessee is a testament to politics taking precedence over patience, where state GOP lawmakers have dumped Common Core before giving it a real chance.  
Charles Corra
Although he blogs in his personal capacity as a private citizen, Charles currently works in education in Nashville, Tennessee. In this position, Charles works to build communities inside and outside of schools. Charles particularly works to create a strong parent engagement base in order to create transparency and involvement in all aspects of education. Charles has worked in a variety of ...

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