NASHVILLE - A proposal to delay further implementation of the state's Common Core standards was approved in the House on Thursday, even though Republican Gov. Bill Haslam and other supporters say they are key to Tennessee students' improvement.
The measure was approved 82-11 after being amended to delay implementation of the standards for two years. The testing component for the standards would also be delayed for two years.
The governor has joined other supporters who say the standards - developed by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers - are needed to better prepare students for the future. They're intended to provide students with the critical thinking, problem solving and writing skills needed for college and the workforce.
"Tennessee's Common Core state standards, and the aligned PARCC assessment, are fundamental to Tennessee's efforts to improve student achievement," Jamie Woodson, president and CEO of the State Collaborative on Reforming Education, said in a statement. SCORE is part of a statewide alliance of more than 400 business, community and education organizations that support the standards.
Haslam spokesman David Smith told The Associated Press in an email after Thursday's vote that the administration was going to review the amendments to assess their impact, but he made a point to say where the governor stands.
"Tennessee has come too far to go backward," Smith said. "The governor will continue to stand up for higher standards and relevant testing of those standards."
Tennessee Board of Regents Chancellor John Morgan said in a statement that the Common Core standards are "important strategies for preparing college- and career-ready graduates."
"Tennessee students deserve education standards that are relevant to today's economic environment," said Morgan, who oversees six state universities, 13 community colleges and 27 colleges of applied technology.
The original bill, sponsored by Republican Rep. Timothy Hill of Blountville, sought to make it a requirement that courses on the United States government be taught in public schools.
House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh of Ripley proposed the Common Core changes and said Hill's bill provided an opportunity to address an issue that has bipartisan concerns.
"There were like minds on this particular subject," said Fitzhugh, alluding to the GOP-dominated House of 71 Republicans, 27 Democrats and one independent.
The standards, mainly new benchmarks for math and reading, have been voluntarily adopted by 45 states. Tennessee adopted them in 2010 and began a three-year phase-in the following year.
State education officials say the standards were fully implemented this year, but Fitzhugh said they haven't been completely applied in all school systems.
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, even though the state has provided training to more than 42,000 educators.
"We've been talking about this in conjunction with other education reforms for some time now," Fitzhugh said. "We need to slow this down and make sure we get it right."
State Sen. Frank Niceley, who has the companion bill to Hill's proposal, said he's not sure about the votes in the Senate but he plans to concur with the House version. He said the amendments are mainly the result of pressure from constituents.
"When you're in office and you get emails and phone calls overwhelmingly against Common Core ... we listen," said Niceley, R-Strawberry Plains. "That's what we're supposed to do."
Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey didn't specifically comment on the amendments, but the Blountville Republican said through his spokesman that there are other ways to address concerns about Common Core.
"Lt. Governor Ramsey believes concerns surrounding Common Core are best addressed by measures currently before the General Assembly that prevent data-mining, reform the state textbook commission and block federal intrusion into curriculum," said Adam Kleinheider.
A proposal to dial back implementation of the standards failed in the Senate Education Committee Wednesday night.
The measure would have required the State Board of Education and the Department of Education to go back to where the implementation process was last year and not go beyond that until the Tennessee General Assembly grants approval.