Editorial, The Tennessean, February 5, 2014 -
For the past seven years at least, Tennessee has made education its top priority. And for the most part, the state is starting to see returns on that effort. But how will the state’s government, business and school leaders, not to mention parents and students, know months and years from now how well that progress is doing?
That’s what Common Core State Standards are all about, and that’s why the State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE) and others are speaking up to fend off an ill-informed backlash against Common Core, which has been adopted in 44 states.
SCORE, led by former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, has released its 2013-14 report on Tennessee education, focusing on K-12. And a big change for K-12 is coming with Common Core, which will be accompanied by the new Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career test. PARCC is considered by educators to be an improvement on the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program exam. If things go as planned, PARCC will begin to be used next fall.
Gov. Bill Haslam sees Common Core as important enough to endorse it in his State of the State address. He explained that Common Core is not a curriculum, but a set of benchmarks for local districts to use as they determine their curriculum; also, that Tennessee educators “have been involved in the creation of the standards from the start.”
Critics, including some Tennessee legislators, have ominously suggested Common Core is a federal conspiracy, even an attempt to brainwash Tennessee schoolchildren for some unnamed end. There is absolutely no basis for their allegations.
Participating states know that without such a standard, it will be very difficult to know whether their educational system is lagging, holding steady or moving forward. There will be 50 islands that do not speak the same language when it comes to schools. Yet, these 50 islands are expected to band together when it comes time to compete with nations whose students perform far better in math, language and other skills that prepare them for jobs and global leadership.
SCORE understands this, and is urging lawmakers not to block Common Core, as one bill recommends, or to delay it and the PARCC test. We’ve seen how Common Core critics have tried to inject fear into what has been a long, thoroughly thought-out process to adopt Common Core.
Frist reminds us that our state needs to maintain “a sense of urgency” about improving education. Without it, the state would not have brought out the very reforms that the same lawmakers have readily embraced. And the state certainly would not have made such dramatic gains as it recorded last year in the National Assessment of Education Progress.
As the General Assembly works through its and the governor’s educational agendas, it would be a big mistake, perhaps a multiyear setback, if Common Core is sidetracked. We have fought to get our schools this far. If we fall back, other states will happily take our place.