published Monday, October 21st, 2013

Bradley County Commission grapples with Common Core

CLEVELAND, Tenn. — The Bradley County Commission is grappling with the adoption of Common Core standards by Tennessee and with state measures that link teacher licensing to student test scores.

Today the commission is expected to vote whether to seek a recommendation from the Bradley County Board of Education on its stance on Common Core. Commissioners also are expected to vote whether to formally oppose elements of the Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System (TVAAS), an analytical tool used to chart student achievement and hold educators accountable for student progress.

In a recent meeting, Commissioner Jeff Yarber said he would prefer that the Bradley County Commission forgo any recommendation from the school board on Common Core and voice concerns over "cookie cutter" nationwide standards directly to the Tennessee Board of Education.

Leaving the Bradley County school board out of the commission's communication with state education officials does not diminish the school board's own voice or authority, Yarber said.

"I don't think we're overstepping our boundaries, since we are the funding body," he said. "I don't think we're micromanaging the school board."

Commissioner Terry Caywood repeatedly has expressed dismay over Common Core standards, saying a number of longtime educators have voiced frustration to him about how the new practices impede both teachers and students.

Bradley commissioners seemed less divided in their stance on how to address concerns over tying teachers' licenses to student performance. A vote will decide whether the panel notifies the Tennessee Board of Education about the matter.

"It's not right to take [teachers'] licenses away for a year's testing or two years' testing," Commissioner Bill Winters said.

Linking student performance to teacher licensure is "a little bit arbitrary," County Commission Vice Chairman J. Adam Lowe said. In comparison, he said, it typically requires matters involving gross negligence to affect the licenses of practitioners of medicine and law.

In other business today, the commission is expected to discuss concerns about a contract dispute between Cigna, the county's health insurer, and SkyRidge Medical Center.

Without insurance network provisions for hospital stays and other services, Lowe said, the situation equated to requiring county employees to go to Chattanooga for those needs. He has asked that the Bradley County Commission formally address the situation with Cigna.

Commissioner Ed Elkins said he felt such a measure amounted to governmental interference of contractual agreements between third parties.

It was a matter of Bradley County being a client and providing feedback, not interference, Lowe said.

Paul Leach is based in Cleveland. Email him at paul.leach.press@gmail.com.

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