At least five people running for Shelby County Schools’ board are supportive of the district’s use of controversial Common Core learning standards while two are hesitant, according to Chalkbeat’s query sent to all of the candidates. One candidate, Damon Curry Morris, wants to move away from standards testing altogether.
This year’s school board race will likely upend almost the entire board with seven of the nine seats up for grabs. The election day is Aug. 7. Early voting began July 18.
Chalkbeat asked all of the candidates questions around several issues that will likely be key decisions the board will have to make in the next four years. Of the 14 candidates, seven responded to questions around Common Core.
The Common Core State Standards are a series of baseline reading and math standards adopted by the State Board of Education in 2010 that determine what children should learn in each grade. Proponents cite a need for greater rigor and analytical skills in schools. Opponents are wary of the loss of local control over what children learn in school and question the standards’ track record.
Standards are set by the state board of education, meaning a local school board which opposed Common Core Standards couldn’t cease their implementation, and a board in favor can’t expand the standards use in other subjects. But a board can impact the degree of influence the standards have in a county by deciding what curricular materials, like textbooks, to spend money on, said Tammy Grissom, the executive director of the Tennessee School Boards Association.
Chris Caldwell in District 1, Teddy King and Stephanie Love in District 3, and Roshun Austin in District 9 support the Common Core Standards. Anthony Lockhart of District 3, and Mike Kernell of District 9 both call for caution when implementing new standards, and Damon Curry Morris of District 9 is opposed to anything related to standardized testing, although he believes Common Core standards “can work” after further research about their impact on students.
Support for the Common Core State Standards and support for PARCC, a wholly Common-Core aligned test that students will take on the computer, are not mutually exclusive among the school board candidates.
Tennessee schools were originally set to administer PARCC during the 2014-2015 school year, but a state policy passed among a flurry of anti-Common Core legislation paused the use of the test for at least a year. Most vocal opponents of PARCC in the legislature opposed it because of the standards the test is based on.
But candidate Anthony Lockhart simultaneously opposes the Common Core standards and approves of the new test. He said his wife is a school teacher and thinks students in Shelby County are prepared enough to take PARCC, although he said he believes more research needs to be done on Common Core.
Damon Curry Morris also expressed enthusiasm for PARCC, despite his opposition to standardized testing and the Common Core. He cited the need for more technology in schools.
Clarification: Chalkbeat is running all of the candidates’ answers who responded to our query.
Here’s are the candidates’ unedited responses to our questions about Common Core:
It is an effort to hold students to a higher standard & promote a more narrow but deeper understanding of academic subjects- it is important that it is implemented in a collaboration with local districts- communities should be able to give feedback and it must be effectively communicated.
It is in my opinion that Common Core will elevate the quality of education for all students and will allow them to be better prepared for life and career.
I believe it is a good idea. It will help students with reasoning and analytical skills. It will help them to rationalize and be able to justify their answers.
Common core hands raise a lot of concerns with parents and teachers. It is best that we use a standard state test and not pressure the kids so much on test.
I voted against Race To The Top because it was a “blank slate”. Now I know that the testing has been onerous. Again, I want to evaluate the evaluation and also review the curriculum. Nonetheless, we are required to follow the State law.
Any program to measure student success is welcome. However, we must make sure that it works for everyone. Common Core can work if we know more about the impact on the students. However, I still do not believe standardized test can adequately measure student success.
I see the implementation of statewide standards or Common Core as an attempt to close the achievement gaps, setting shared goals and expectations for knowledge and skills that will help all students succeed in college, careers, and life. I am a proponent of statewide standards. For me, the standards at the most basic level prepare all students regardless of their background or geographic location to master similar skills. I understand that the standards do not eliminate the inequalities that come with poverty and geography. However, common standards will help to close the gaps, creating more coherence and equity in our educational system. The standards address the gaps on an ongoing basis versus waiting to report the outcomes of inequity like inflated school drop-out rates and societal costs such as crime, teen pregnancy, high unemployment.