Bradley County officials hear arguments over Common Core standards

Bradley County officials hear arguments over Common Core standards

October 1st, 2013 by Paul Leach in Local Regional News

Dr. Jared Bigham, director of college and career readiness for the Tennessee State Collaborative on Reforming Education, speaks to members of the Bradley County Education Committee and the Bradley County Board of Education regarding Tennessee's Common Core standards.

Photo by Paul Leach /Times Free Press.

CLEVELAND, Tenn. -- The Bradley County Commission is trying to decide whether to oppose formally Tennessee's adoption of Common Core education standards.

On Monday, members of the commission's Education Committee heard presentations from differing perspectives on the matter before it issues a recommendation to the full commission.

Common Core is an issue for the Bradley County Commission because there is a "fiscal note" attached to the program and that is a matter of county finance, said Commissioner Adam Lowe, chairman of the Education Committee.

On another level, national interest in public education began with the mission of social equity, he said.

"[This] means national involvement in education is always social politics," Lowe said. "Social politics is a matter for the County Commission as it is for any other governing body."

It is not a question of whether the state will adopt Common Core because it is a "thinking set of standards" that have been implemented in Tennessee over the last three years, said Dr. Jared Bigham, director of college and career readiness for the State Collaborative on Reforming Education.

"This is the first time we've had standards that are also accompanied by instructional practices that promote thinking more, promote self-evaluation in their work, and that's one of the reasons Common Core has sustainability from the side of instruction," Bigham said.

Statewide, more than 40,000 teachers have trained on Common Core standards, he said.

Tennessee was not "bought off" by $501 million in federal Race to the Top funds won by the state in 2010, Bigham said. About 8 percent of the 500-point application for that funding was tied to the adoption of improved education standards, but not Common Core specifically, he said.

Karen Bracken, spokeswoman for Tennessee Against Common Core and a member of the Bradley County Tea Party, said Common Core is not the answer to improving Tennessee's education system.

The Common Core initiative is untested and is more about social justice than education, serving as a method of federal control over local education, she said. Bracken cited research presented in a video that was not shown during the meeting, but she said she would distribute it to members of the committee.

A Bracken presentation to the Chattanooga Tea Party titled "Common Core: Subversive Threat to Education" was posted to YouTube in April.

Bracken equates Common Core with communism on the "About Us" page of the Tennessee Against Common Core website.

"Our children are what they want. They know that in one generation they can brainwash enough children to finally get what they want: The total destruction of America and freedom."

The Education Committee postponed making any recommendations before it meets in mid-October.

Paul Leach is based in Cleveland. Email him at