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Haslam Promises ‘Full Vetting’ of Common Core as Teachers Appear to Sour on Standards

But governor doubts newly released Vandy study is last word on educators’ attitudes

A new survey gauging the mood of Tennessee public school educators indicates a growing number are casting a jaundiced eye toward the state’s controversial English and math standards assessment program.

The survey, conducted by Peabody College at Vanderbilt University, shows that in 2014 only 39 percent of teachers support Common Core. That’s a significant drop from the 60 percent who voiced support in 2013.

Conservative Republicans have long been aiming criticism at Common Core, which is advocated by the National Governors Association and the Obama administration. But the Vanderbilt survey would seem to indicate suspicion of the program is spreading roots across Tennessee’s political landscape.

Last week Gov. Bill Haslam indicated he favors a “full vetting” of Common Core going forward in order to “let people have a chance to talk very specifically about what they like and what they don’t like about those standards.”

“We’re going to, on a very specific basis, look at the standards,” Haslam told reporters on a conference call Thursday. The standards have been in place for four years, long enough now to have an informed discussion about what “might be lacking,” he said.

But the governor indicated that while he hasn’t yet fully analyzed the survey in detail, a cursory examination doesn’t lead him to believe the results indicate an irreversible entrenchment of opposition to Common Core among teachers. There were “several reasons” for why the teachers voiced opposition to the standards, Haslam said.

“Some of those had to do with the use of that data for evaluations, which is really a separate issue than standards; some of it had to do with the amount of testing that happens in our schools, which really has nothing to do with Common Core; and some of it is teachers saying, ‘I’m not certain these are the right standards to teach,'” Haslam said.

According to the findings of the survey, in its second year of existence and completed by about 10,000 teachers in both rounds, there was “no single, simple explanation for this shift,” though a strong connection between opposition and poor implementation of standards was apparent. Also, teachers unhappy with evaluations were found to be more likely to oppose the standards, as were teachers unhappy with their career.

However, the survey showed no apparent connection between opposition to the standards and poor student response in the classroom. Likewise, response bias was not found to be “an important factor.”

But while the survey findings support Haslam’s view that evaluations and assessments likely play a big role in teacher dissatisfaction, he still reiterated the comments made to reporters following his education summit last week — the standards need a “full vetting,” which represents a departure from his stance earlier this year: a delay in the implementation of the standards would slow the momentum of the state’s improvement.

“You hear everything from standards are too difficult to they’re too easy, and what we’re committed to doing is to get a full vetting of those standards,” Haslam said. “And then get a chance to make certain that we have the right things in place.”

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