Senate Republicans Pushing Legislation to Recommend New K-12 Standards

Press Release from the Republican Majority Caucus of the Tennessee State Senate, Nov. 17, 2014:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Senate Education Committee Chairman Dolores Gresham (R-Somerville) and Senate Government Operations Committee Chairman Mike Bell (R-Riceville) filed legislation today establishing a Tennessee Standards Commission that would recommend to the State Board of Education for adoption, all standards to be used in the state’s K-12 public schools. The legislation would cancel Tennessee’s current memorandum of understanding concerning the Common Core State Standards entered into with the National Governor’s Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers for English Language Arts and Math.

Gresham and Bell said the move is designed to ensure Tennessee students continue to improve by applying the highest standards, while exerting state control over education. The legislation prescribes that the new standards to replace the English and Math Common Core Standards must be ready by the time students walk into classroom for the 2016-2017 school year.

“First and foremost, this legislation is committed to the highest standards to keep our students moving forward,” said Senator Gresham. “We want to continue to be the fastest improving state in the nation, providing a model for education improvement. 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.”

The U.S. Constitution leaves the responsibility for public K-12 education with the states.

Under Senate Bill 4, the nine-member commission would be appointed equally by the governor and the speakers of the Senate and House of Representatives to six-year terms. Each member must be confirmed by a joint resolution of the General Assembly upon the recommendation of the Senate and House Education Committees. The legislation requires the commission hold public meetings which can be viewed online to ensure transparency and maximize public input into the process. The standards must be posted for public review and comment on the State Board of Education website.

Upon receiving the standards, the State Board of Education must either adopt the proposal or return them to the Standards Commission for further review. The State Board of Education, however, cannot return the standards to the Commission more than two times. Commission members will receive no pay but can collect per diem for travel expenses.

The bill also asks the Standards Commission to make recommendations to the State Board of Education in an effort to reduce the number of high stakes assessments administered by schools for English and Math. Many teachers and parents have been highly critical of the number of assessments given to students during the school year which reduces the hours of classroom instruction.

Finally, the legislation provides the Commission shall examine and make recommendations to the State Board of Education concerning any new Advanced Placement (AP) courses under a new framework put into place by the College Board. This measure comes after criticism that the new AP U.S. History (APUSH) testing reflects a revisionist interpretation of historical facts, while providing little or no discussion of some of the nation’s foundational documents, military battles, and heroes.

“We need the highest standards and we need exemplary college- and work-ready skills,” added Senator Bell. “We do not need agenda-driven education from Washington or a private business contracted to test the knowledge of students in Tennessee.”

The General Assembly is set to convene on January 13.