It goes back well before Tennessee voted to join the Common Core State Standards in 2010. It goes back farther than 2007 when the U.S. Chamber of Commerce gave Tennessee an “F” for truth in advertising about student proficiency. It goes further back than No Child Left Behind, Y2K, the Clinton administration or even the first Gulf War.
The genesis of the Common Core State Standards can be traced to 1983 and a Ronald Reagan era report sounding the alarm over American students losing ground in the classroom on the world stage.
The report, A Nation at Risk, cited declining SAT scores, poor student performance on international comparisons and reinforced the growing idea that the education system was failing its students, parents and teachers.
Then, according to the State Dept. of Education, at the 1996 National Education Summit, a bipartisan group of governors and business leaders decided to create and lead an organization dedicated to supporting standards-based education reform efforts across the states.
To do so, they formed Achieve, an independent, bipartisan, non-profit education reform organization. Gov, Bill Haslam is a member of the board of Achieve. Former Gov. Phil Bredesen was formerly a member of the board.
In December 2004, the American Diploma Project released the report, “Ready or Not: Creating a High School Diploma that Counts.” This report documented that most high school graduates need remedial help in college, most college students never attain a degree, and most employers say high school graduates lack basic skills.
The report states, “While students and their parents may still believe that the diploma reflects adequate preparation for the intellectual demands of adult life, in reality it falls far short of this common-sense goal. The diploma has lost value because graduates could not compete successfully beyond high school.” This study also found that “whether planning to enter college or workforce training programs after graduation, high school students need to be educated to a comparable level of readiness in reading and mathematics.”
This discussion began the development of the Common Core State Standards.
In 2007, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce gave Tennessee an “F” for “Truth in Advertising” about student proficiency. While large percentages of students were proficient on 2005 state math and reading assessments, much smaller percentages of students were proficient in scores on NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress).
Starting in 2007, Tennessee created the Tennessee Diploma Project to help align Tennessee’s education standards to skills needed to succeed in education and in the workplace.
The project was led by the Tennessee Alignment Committee, a panel of state and local government officials, joined by business, post-secondary and K-12 leaders. Tennessee joined 30 states working to align expectations for students as part of the American Diploma Project Network.
In July 2008, Achieve documented the efforts of multiple states working to set career and college ready standards. The report tracked the “voluntary standard-setting efforts in 16 early-adopter states including Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Tennessee and Texas.
The current Common Core State Standards initiative was launched by the National Governors Association (NGA) and Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) in 2008.
In December 2008, Education Week reported that NGA, CCSSO and Achieve released a report urging for Common Core Standards.
Since that Regan-era report, the goal has not changed: Make sure our students can compete intellectually in the global marketplace, that they graduate high school knowing the things they need to know to enter the workforce, military or college.
It seems relatively straightforward. Of course, the goal should be to give our students the tools they need to succeed after they graduate.
And the plan passed in Tennessee in 2011 with relatively little opposition. Only now that the three year rollout is nearing completion are questions beginning to arise.
Though 45 states and the District of Columbia had signed on to participate in the Common Core State Standards, a pushback among far right conservative groups has begun.
In Tennessee, a State Senate committee convened a hearing on the matter in late September at which Chairwoman Dolores Gresham somewhat cryptically hinted at changes.
Without being specific, she said, “There are some things that gnaw at us that we will have to do something about.”
But many are confused about just what the Common Core is and what it is not.
The Expect More, Achieve More Coalition, a statewide alliance of business, community, and education organizations in Tennessee working for high academic standards in public education, provides a summary of just what the Common Core is designed to help students achieve.
Think critically, reason and make informed decisions
Today’s manufacturing jobs, for example, go far beyond the simple production tasks of the past. Employees must be able to modify and adjust to rapidly changing demands.
Communicate verbally in written form
Tennessee’s graduates will be able to write technical and informative reports, as well as present key ideas in front of a broad audience
Learn, develop and apply new skill sets.
The principle behind the Common Core State Standards is not to graduate a student who is job ready in every sector; it’s to graduate a student who is equipped to easily acquire the necessary skills for any job. Simply put: Future employees will be trainable to meet their employer’s needs.
Reason through the “why” of a process and not just the “how”
In most businesses, the process is as important as the product. Future employees will be able to think through the process of a product.
Solve problems through reasoning skills
Future employees will be able to deduce solutions for problems ranging from the assembly line to the corporate sales office.
Incorporate technology into learning, problem solving and communicating
Tennessee graduates will be able to use technology to find, apply and present information to co-workers.
Actively listen and engage in discussions
Employees will be able to collaborate around production and effectiveness.
Employees will be able to make adjustments to increase productivity and effectiveness.
The coalition is building statewide and local support, engagement, and awareness of the state’s efforts to raise the bar in the classroom with Tennessee’s Common Core State Standards.
The Coalition’s goal: Every student graduates high school prepared for postsecondary education and the workforce.
The Coalition believes that when we expect more, students achieve more.