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Senate leaders file bill to remove Common Core

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

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

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