You can add 13 retired generals and admirals from Tennessee to the list of K-12 educators, school superintendents, college presidents and others asking the state legislature to hold off on gutting the Common Core State Standards.

Tennessee members of Mission: Readiness, an organization of retired senior military leaders advocating for “smart investments in America’s children,” urged lawmakers Tuesday to stay the course with the state’s current academic benchmarks, adopted in 2010.

Strong academic standards, they said, impact the nation’s military readiness by helping to support a pipeline of educated and fit personnel to the armed forces.

“Rigorous academic standards will foster student success and improvement in schools,” the retired leaders wrote in their letter to members of the General Assembly. “It is standard operating procedure in the military, and among many successful businesses and sports teams, to have concrete measures of performance.”

The letter notes that consistent standards also are critical for military families whose assignments require them to move to multiple locations during their children’s K-12 years. “These children are significantly disadvantaged when the academic standards to which they are held accountable change, often dramatically, as they move state to state,” the letter said.

Before they were adopted by most states, academic standards varied widely across the nation. The goal of Common Core – launched in 2009 by state and education leaders from 48 states, two territories and the District of Columbia – was to create consistent, real-world learning goals to ensure all students, regardless of where they live, are graduating high school prepared for college, career and life. Three states — Oklahoma, Indiana, and South Carolina — have since repealed the standards, and Tennessee lawmakers are reviewing proposals to repeal them as well. Criticism has ranged from vague standards to federal intrusion in state education matters to testing tools that are not aligned with the new standards.

Mission: Readiness supports the current year-long review announced last fall by Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration of Tennessee’s English language arts and math standards. That process is underway, with recommendations for changes to be submitted to the State Board of Education by the end of 2015. A new Common Core-aligned test also is being developed for Tennessee.

“Just as every good battle plan requires a sound underpinning strategy, so do education standards,” the letter continues. “In addition to standards, our state needs aligned assessments, or tests that will ultimately tell us if student achievement is rising.”

Members of the group in other states, including North Carolina, also have asked their legislators to hold off on a standards change.

Follow the status of education-related bills in the 109th Tennessee General Assembly.
Follow the status of education-related bills in the 109th Tennessee General Assembly.

The letter arrives as state legislative committees are considering several bills this week that threaten to end the state’s new Common Core-aligned TNReady assessment, as well as the standards themselves. This week’s Common Core-related bills are more extreme than a compromise bill approved last week by a House subcommittee. One bill this week would allow districts to adopt “inferior” standards.

Contact Grace Tatter at gtatter@chalkbeat.org

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