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Parents and educators concerned about Common Core

By Lacy Hilliard
As the new Common Core standards begin to integrate within school districts across the country, many parents and educators are becoming increasingly concerned about the new standards and the impact they will have on public schools.
Common Core was originally developed by the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). These groups continue to lead in the development and implementation of Common Core. The central idea of Common Core as it was originally proposed was to create a curriculum in which students across the country will be required to comply with the same standards, thereby creating a seamless education system. Many feel that by leveling the playing field, Common Core could help better prepare American students for today’s global economy.
Forty-four states across the U.S. have already adopted Common Core, which is set to be fully implemented by 2016. The positive aspects of Common Core are virtually undisputed. Because Common Core works to better prepare students for college, a higher-level curriculum will coincide with the new standards. Many experts agree that the new curriculum will inspire students to develop advanced critical thinking skills, which could better prepare them for the college environment. Common Core also inspires equality by ensuring that students in low-income regions receive the same level of education as students in wealthier regions.
Though the central idea of Common Core is believed to be positive, the debate wages on as to whether or not Common Core is really beneficial to American students. Central to the debate is a comparison of Common Core to the now failed No Child Left Behind program. The importance Common Core places on standardized testing is seen as a red flag for many that opposed No Child Left Behind and though the creators of Common Core claim that the new curriculum actually inspires creativity in the classroom, opponents feel it does anything but. Opponents site the importance Common Core places on informational textbooks rather than literature as proof that Common Core does not promote creativity but rather teaches students to quickly process large amounts of information.
Perhaps the most opposed aspect of Common Core leaves even its in search of answers. Johnson County School District Superintendent Morris Woodring issued a statement earlier this week that reads, “I feel that Tennessee is moving in the right direction as we implement the more rigorous Common Core Standards. This will better prepare Tennessee students in a global economy.” However, when asked how he feels about the controversial value added assessment of teachers, he responded, “I have an issue with the value added aspect of Common Core. I don’t think assessment scores being tied to teacher licensure is fair to educators.” The idea of the value added model or VAM is to tie students’ assessment test scores to whether or not an educator is eligible to renew his or her teaching license. The negative impact of the value added model has already been felt by some educators such as Florida teacher Kim Cook. Cook was chosen as Teacher of the Year by her school district, however, according to her value added scores, Cook could be in danger of losing her teaching license. The Value Added Model works by grading a teacher’s effectiveness through administrative assessment but also statistically evaluates effectiveness through Math and Language Arts test scores. Because the Value Added Model calculates standardized test scores in terms of growth, many consider it unfair and ineffective. For instance, a student that consistently performs well on standardized tests leaves little room to improve their score. Therefore, the high scoring student could be putting their teacher in danger of a low value added score because the statistics are based on growth.
As Common Core continues to implement within Johnson County Schools, Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam addressed concerns about the new standards in his final State of the State address before seeking re-election. Haslam also used this opportunity to reveal a proposal, which would allow Tennessee high school graduates to receive two-years free tuition at a community college or trade school. The program Haslam calls “Tennessee Promise” would reportedly be funded by the Tennessee Lottery and would pose no cost to taxpayers. Haslam’s overall stance on both Common Core and the future of education in Tennessee can perhaps best be summed up by the following statement he made during his address, “We are committed to making a clear statement to families that education beyond high school is a priority in the state of Tennessee.”
If you are a parent or educator with concerns about any aspect of Common Core, you may write to Governor Haslam at 1st Floor, State Capitol Nashville, TN 37243.