published Tuesday, February 25th, 2014

Petition seeks to preserve Common Core in Tennessee

NASHVILLE — A petition with more than 9,000 signatures supporting Tennessee's Common Core standards was released Tuesday amid efforts by some lawmakers to do away with them.

A statewide alliance of more than 400 business, community and education organizations in Tennessee released the online petition, which was to be emailed to members of the Tennessee General Assembly.

Hard copies of the petition were presented to members of the House Education Subcommittee that was to hear proposals addressing the new benchmarks for reading and math. Proposals to do away with the standards or restrict them were delayed until the final meeting of the subcommittee, which faced a room packed with Common Core supporters.

"Anytime there is a bill related to Common Core state standards ... and raising expectations for students in Tennessee, there will be Tennesseans who will be here expressing their support," said David Mansouri, executive vice president of the State Collaborative on Reforming Education, or SCORE, which is part of the alliance.

The standards — developed by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers — are intended to provide students with the critical thinking, problem solving and writing skills needed for college and the workforce.

They have been voluntarily adopted by 45 states. Tennessee adopted them in 2010 and began a three-year phase-in the following year.

Critics say the standards were written in private and never tested in real classrooms, and that educators aren't familiar enough with the standards to use them.

Another concern is that the standards could lead to the sharing of personally identifiable student data with the federal government.

One measure that would place restrictions on the use of student data advanced out of the subcommittee on a voice vote Tuesday.

As for the other bills being delayed, Bobbie Patray, president of the Tennessee Eagle Forum, a conservative group that shares many tea party beliefs and is against the Common Core standards, said she's concerned when bills are rolled but not pessimistic in this case.

"I think everyone knows there's some resistance against some of these bills," she said. "But these bills have a lot of public support, and it's my hope and prayer that the legislators will hear from the constituents about the seriousness of this."

Supporters of the standards say they're needed to better prepare students for the future.

"As it is, 60 to 70 percent of the first-time freshman we get straight out of high schools have to have some considerable learning support activity to get them in a place where they can be successful at the college level," said John Morgan, chancellor of the Tennessee Board of Regents, which oversees six state universities, 13 community colleges and 27 colleges of applied technology.

"If we can get students ready to walk in the door and start being successful in college, then we can move the needle substantially."

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