Input sought on state education

Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Haslam administration is seeking public input on Tennessee's K-12 education standards in English and math, including the controversial Common Core.

The review will be conducted on a website that will launch in a couple of weeks, said David Smith, a spokesman for Gov. Bill Haslam. Academic standards are typically done every years, and the current standards are in their fourth year.

Time for look

"With all the discussion in Tennessee and across the country about Common Core standards, the governor thought it was an appropriate time to take a new look at our current standards," Smith said.

Citizens will be able to go online, review each standard and comment on what he or she likes or does not like, Smith said. A third-party group, the Southern Regional Education Board, will collect the data next spring and turn it over to committees comprised of educators.

Smith said the governor asked the state Board of Education to appoint those committees, which are comprised of professional educators from around the state -- from elementary school through college. The state Board of Education also appointed advisory teams to help the committees.

Those committees will send the data -- and any recommendations -- to the Tennessee Board of Education by the end of 2015.

Year of study

The year-long process means the review of the standards will not be ready in time for the next legislative session, said J.C. Bowman, executive director of Professional Educators of Tennessee, an educators' representative group.

"We want to make sure the process is balanced and allows for appropriate input from all Tennessee stakeholders -- especially classroom teachers, as well as parents with children in Tennessee's public schools," Bowman said.

"We look forward to working with all stakeholders and policymakers to ensure our standards are uniquely Tennessean, and among the best in the nation.

'Smokescreen'

One Common Core critic called the public review a "smokescreen."

"The group he (Gov. Haslam) brought in to do this is heavily funded by Bill Gates to support Common Core," said Karen Bracken of Tennessee Against Common Core. "What the governor is saying is he will continue his support of Common Core. He has no intentions of getting rid of Common Core."

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has donated $11.8 million to SREB to support Common Core, Bracken said, citing SREB's funding sources on its website.

"The governor has set up a review panel that he would have had to do anyhow," Bracken said.

The board

The Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization based in Atlanta. The organization is funded by member appropriations and by grants and contracts from foundations and local, state and federal agencies.

Haslam's administration asked the SREB to help with the public review, Smith said, and added that it is an independent organization.

"The state has a 20-year relationship with the organization as a third-party, independent source," Smith said.