Tennessee Didn’t Repeal Common Core, They Rebranded It


Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam signed a bill that started a “review and replacement” of the Common Core State Standards in August. Even when the bill was signed the result was uncertain:

It’s unclear whether the process set out by the new law will result in a significant step away from Common Core, or if it will represent a rebranding with minor tweaks. Tennessee school superintendentsin February sent state lawmakers a letter backing Common Core, although support for the standards has been waning among teachers – a September survey showed most Tennessee teachers now oppose Common Core.

I had concerns when the bill first passed the Tennessee House that it still left the State Board of Education in charge of approving the new standards. There wasn’t any legislative oversight to the process.

As the review committees were put together there was not unity on the end goal – a revision of the Common Core or  repeal?

Last week’s fiery press release by Ramsey, who named three people to the panel, refers in the headline to the “Common Core repeal committee” and then states in the release: “The committee was established by the Tennessee General Assembly for the explicit purpose of repealing and replacing the Common Core Standards established in 2010.” He described one of his appointees, Shirley Curry, as a “conservative activist” and invoked “Tennessee values” as being central to the need for an academic overhaul.

By contrast, this week’s statement by Haslam, who appointed four people to the group, called the same body a “Standards Recommendation Committee” and never mentions the words “Common Core” or “repeal.”

“We are committed to obtaining the highest possible standards in Tennessee’s schools, and I am grateful to these dedicated educators for agreeing to serve in this effort,”Haslam said in a more muted statement. “All Tennesseans want the best for our students, and this process will build on the historic gains we have made in education.”

Haslam stated that his problem was more with the name Common Core, than the actual standards themselves:

If the latter, the standards will undoubtedly be rebranded, as Haslam acknowledged earlier this year that the name “Common Core” is problematic for many groups. “I just realized that fixing the brand is too hard,” Haslam told editors and publishers at a Tennessee Press Association meeting in February. “There’s certainly hills you should die on, but dying on a brand that people feel that way about, I don’t think is smart.”

Last fall, Haslam initiated a year-long review process to scrutinize the current enhanced standards, so that the standards, which were fully implemented during the 2012-2013 school year, do not get gutted alongside the Common Core label.

So now The Tennesseean declares that the Common Core has been “phased out.”

The state developed a more rigorous review process to assess the standards, including two online public reviews, educator review and legislative input. The review process took almost two years.

“We started with the current state standards. From there we executed an unprecedented transparent, comprehensive review and replacement process,” State Board of Education Executive Director Sara Heyburn said.

“The results were a set of new, Tennessee-specific standards brought to us by the Standards Recommendation Committee, whose members were appointed by the governor, lieutenant governor, and the speaker of the House of Representatives and confirmed by the General Assembly,” Heyburn said.

Starting with the Common Core is the problem. A true repeal would set the standards and the committees would start from scratch. This process would just lead to tweaks. Granted there may be some improvements, but let’s be clear this wasn’t a repeal and Tennessee has adopted Common Core lite sans the name Common Core.

Tennessee Pulls Out of PARCC

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, Commissioner of Education Kevin Huffman and Fielding Rolston, the chair of the Tennessee State Board of Education, wrote a letter to PARCC CEO Laura Stover in May saying that they were withdrawing from PARCC due to a new law, HB 1549, that passed and was signed by Governor Haslam.  This leaves PARCC with just 14 member states and the District of Columbia.

The law requires Tennessee to use TCAP, the state’s current assessment, in 2014-2015 and the Tennessee Department of Education issue new RFPs for a new test for the 2015-2016 school year.  PARCC can still participate in the competitive bidding process.

Some legislators saw this law as being “lipstick on a pig” when it was first passed in the Tennessee House due to loopholes in the language of the bill.

HT: Curriculum Matters