published Friday, February 7th, 2014

Tennessee lawmakers propose bills for Common Core

NASHVILLE — Lawmakers have proposed a number of measures this legislative session targeting Tennessee's Common Core standards — including a proposal to do away with them.

A panel discussion on the new benchmarks for reading and math was held at The Associated Press-Tennessee Press Association's legislative preview session Thursday.

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. The standards also come with a multibillion-dollar price tag.

"They haven't been tried or proven anywhere before," said Bobbie Patray, a panelist and president of the Tennessee Eagle Forum, a conservative group that shares many tea party beliefs. "What happens when the money runs out?"

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

Last month, education officers from 35 states sent a letter to U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan addressing concerns that there will be new reporting requirements because of the standards. They said that won't happen and that the federal government is prohibited from creating a student-level database with individual students' test results. They said the states will continue to provide the Education Department with school-level data.

However, in Tennessee, lawmakers are still considering legislation related to the privacy issue.

"There are ... legitimate concerns about Common Core," House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, said before the panel discussion. "I think you're going to see some legislation passed on data collection; who has the ability to see that data."

Other proposals include repealing parts of the standards, and doing away with them altogether.

Republican Gov. Bill Haslam told reporters following a luncheon that the standards have played a part in Tennessee students' academic improvement and that repealing them would not be a good idea.

"I would have a major concern about that," he said.

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