New website seeks public feedback on education standards


Last week, Gov. Bill Haslam unveiled a state website through which Tennesseans can submit feedback from now to spring 2015 on the K-12 educational standards in math and English/language arts.

Last week, Gov. Bill Haslam unveiled a state website through which Tennesseans can submit feedback from now to spring 2015 on the K-12 educational standards in math and English/language arts.

After meeting with educators from across the state at a September summit, the governor announced in October plans for a public vetting process of the Common Core standards to take place throughout the year of 2015.

Standards are typically reviewed on a six-year cycle. The current standards were implemented in 2010, but this review is coming prematurely due to the amount of critique and debate surrounding the standards.

“Tennessee is making historic progress in academic achievement, and this discussion is about having the best possible standards as we continue that important work,” Haslam said in a news release.

“This valuable tool allows Tennesseans to contribute feedback on the current standards, adding their voice directly to the review process to improve student achievement.”

Two committees and six advisory teams composed of 42 professional educators were appointed by the state board to review public feedback on the 2,000-plus math and ELA standards and then make recommendations to the board by the end of 2015.

These groups include two Williamson County educators — Lipscomb Elementary Assistant Principal Julie Martin on the math standards review and development committee, and Ravenwood High instructor T.J. Wilson on the high school ELA advisory team.

Neither responded to requests for comment by press time, though some local parents gave their opinions on the process.

“I think this will be particularly useful because the standards themselves demonstrate that a great deal of thought goes into the development of educational standards,” Roger Abramson said.

“That said, I suspect many parents will find some of them – particularly the higher-grade mathematics ones – hard to understand, and I am afraid that means those parents will criticize them for that reason, which will be unfortunate, because ‘hard to understand’ does not necessarily mean ‘bad’ or ‘wrong.’

“Parent involvement definitely has a place in this process, but experts are experts for a reason.”

Another Williamson parent, Julie West, said she plans to make posts on the site, but doesn’t expect the state to do anything with the public comments. Her view is that the site is a “political theater” maneuver to give the public the misperception of being included in the vetting process.

West was also against the Southern Regional Education Board’s involvement in the process.

“I’d say my biggest concern on the review process is the group that’s been brought in to oversee the process. If there was a legitimate attempt to do an honest, accurate review of the standards, why bring in a group that supports the standards?”

The SREB is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that advocates for public education improvements in 16 member states, including Tennessee. The board has been charged with collecting feedback through the website and then sharing it with the vetting committees and teams.

Williamson County school board member Rick Wimberly (District 9) responded to an inquiry about local board participation, saying he didn’t intend to personally provide feedback through the site.

“The board’s resolution already lays out what we would like to see in standards, such as local control and emphasis on critical thinking and analytical skills over rote skill repetition, constant and continuous testing, and data mining,” Wimberly said.

In October, the board passed a nonbinding resolution regarding Common Core that did not oppose the standards but rather expressed to the state a desire for local control.

Jessica Pace covers Williamson County, Williamson County Schools and the Town of Nolensville for Home Page Media Group. Contact her at jess@brentwoodhomepage.com or follow her on Twitter @Jess_NHP.

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