From the Statehouse

Senate leaders file bill to remove Common Core

PHOTO: G. Tatter
A bus sponsored by Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity was parked in front of an education summit in downtown Nashville in September.

Two State Senate leaders filed a bill this morning to remove the Common Core State Standards from Tennessee classrooms and replace them with new academic standards by 2016.

Dolores Gresham, a Republican from Somerville and the chairman of the Senate Education Committee, and  Mike Bell, a Republican from  Riceville and the chairman of the Government Operations Committee, filed the bill.

If it passes next spring, the bill could upend the work of the state Department of Education to implement Common Core standards for math and reading  — and satisfy the standards’ detractors, many of whom are in the legislature.

The state adopted the Common Core standards, which were created by educators from across the country, in 2010. Since then, the opposition to them among politicians in Tennessee has steadily increased, culminating in Gov. Bill Haslam’s recent decision to open a statewide review of the standards.

The review of the standards won’t be complete until the fall of 2015 — long after Gresham and Bell’s bill would be up for a vote.

Additionally, the state just sealed a nearly $108 million contract with Measurement Inc. for an assessment aligned with the standards.

“We want to continue to be the fastest improving state in the nation, providing a model for education improvement,” Gresham said in a statement released by the Senate Republican Caucus. “As such, we need to be a leader and take the next logical step which is to use the knowledge we have learned and tailor it to Tennessee students, exerting state responsibility over education.”

Haslam struck a cautious note during a press conference Monday. “I think it’s no great surprise that there will be lot of legislation filed this year around education,” he said.  Having only had time for a cursory review of the bill’s summary, Haslam said he has some questions.

“It talks a little bit about setting up another review board for standards. I’m curious about how that would work. We already have the state board that does that. How all that would play out would be a big question for me.”

Common Core supporters were quick to condemn the bill. “There’s no doubt that the current higher standards have been a major factor in Tennessee’s students being the fastest improving in the nation, said David Mansouri, executive vice president of the State Collaborative on Reforming Education, a non-profit advocacy and research organization. “The current standards are working and we believe Gov. Bill Haslam’s current review process should run its course before any efforts are made to change it. It is our hope that the work of Tennessee educators is not pre-empted by legislative action.”

The House education subcommittee killed a bill to repeal the standards during the 2014 legislative session.

Last year, Gresham introduced bills intended to rein in the Common Core by limiting the use of data collected by standards-aligned assessments and preventing the adoption of “common” science and social studies standards. But she also presided over the Senate Committee as it killed bills meant to undermine the Common Core

Several other states have pulled the Common Core State Standards this year, including nearby North Carolina, South Carolina, and Indiana.

Tajuana Cheshier contributed to this story

awarding leaders

Meet the nine finalists for Tennessee Principal of the Year

PHOTO: Shelby County Schools
From left: Docia Generette-Walker receives Tennessee's 2016 principal of the year honor from Education Commissioner Candice McQueen. Generette-Walker leads Middle College High School in Memphis. This year's winner will be announced in October.

Nine school leaders are up for an annual statewide award, including one principal from Memphis.

Tracie Thomas, a principal at White Station Elementary School, represents schools in Shelby County on the state’s list of finalists. Last year, Principal Docia Generette-Walker of Middle College High School in Memphis received the honor.

Building better principals has been a recent focus for Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen as roles of the school leaders change under school improvement efforts.

“Successful schools begin with great leaders, and these nine finalists represent some of the best in our state,” McQueen said. “The Principal of the Year finalists have each proven what is possible when school leaders hold students and educators to high expectations.”

The winner will be announced at the state department’s annual banquet in October, where the winner of Tennessee’s Teacher of the Year will also be announced.

The finalists are:

West Tennessee

  • Tracie Thomas, White Station Elementary, Shelby County Schools
  • Stephanie Coffman, South Haven Elementary, Henderson County School District
  • Linda DeBerry, Dyersburg City Primary School, Dyersburg City Schools

Middle Tennessee

  • Kenneth “Cam” MacLean, Portland West Middle School, Sumner County Schools
  • John Bush, Marshall County High School, Marshall County Schools
  • Donnie Holman, Rickman Elementary School, Overton County Schools

East Tennessee

  • Robin Copp, Ooltewah High School, Hamilton County Schools
  • Jeff Harshbarger, Norris Middle School, Anderson County Schools
  • Carol McGill, Fairmont Elementary School, Johnson City Schools

you better work

Hickenlooper, on national TV, calls for bipartisanship on job training for high school graduates

PHOTO: Nicholas Garcia
Gov. John Hickenlooper spoke to reporters on the eve of the 2017 General Assembly.

Gov. John Hickenlooper on Sunday said Republicans and Democrats should work together to rethink how states are preparing high school graduates for the 21st century economy.

“It’s not a Republican or Democratic issue to say we want better jobs for our kids, or we want to make sure they’re trained for the new generation of jobs that are coming or beginning to appear,” he said on CBS’s Face the Nation.

Hickenlooper, a Democrat, appeared on the Sunday public affairs program alongside Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a Republican, to discuss their work on healthcare.

The Colorado governor brought up workforce training after moderator John Dickerson asked what issues besides healthcare both parties should be addressing.

“Two-thirds of our kids are never going to have a four-year college degree, and we really haven’t been able to prepare them to involve them in the economy where the new generations of jobs require some technical capability,” Hickenlooper said. “We need to look at apprenticeships. We need to look at all kinds of internships.”

Hickenlooper has long supported a variety of education reform policies including charter schools and linking student test scores to teacher evaluations. Last fall he backed a new program that is expected to this year connect 250 Colorado high school students with paid job training.

Watch Hickenlooper and Kasich here. Hickenlooper’s remarks on job training begin right before the 11- minute mark.