Repeal of Common Core Enacted

A measure intended to repeal and replace Common Core State Standards in Tennessee has been approved by Gov. Bill Haslam.

Although Haslam has supported the controversial standards and hailed them as a key reason for Tennessee’s nationally recognized improvements in public education, he signed legislation this week that, in the words of Republican Sen. Mike Bell, the bill’s sponsor, “replaces Common Core, period.”

Sponsored in the House by Republican Billy Spivey of Lewisburg, the measure passed the lower chamber 97-0 and the Senate 28-1. It requires the state to “cancel any memorandum of understanding concerning the Common Core State Standards” that exists with the developers of that system — the National Governor’s Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers.

Haslam told reporters last week he’s not terribly disappointed the Legislature decided to move away from Common Core. And now is in fact a good time to make a shift, since the state is due for an education-standards review anyway, he said.

The governor said he expects the new system, which involves more voices from the field of education providing input into the review and development of K-12 benchmarks to promote college and career readiness, to work smoothly.

Haslam announced a standards review process last fall. The new legislation enshrines the administration’s existing review process in statute, as well as creates an additional 10-member panel jointly selected by Haslam and the speakers of both chambers of the General Assembly. That panel will review the recommendations of Haslam’s appointed committees, and will determine whether or not to send those suggestions along to the State Board.

Haslam said his appointees to the extra panel will likely include people already on the prior review committees, “just so you have some people that have been a part of the process the whole way through.”

Common Core, developed in 2009 by the National Governor’s Association and Council of Chief State School Officers, was approved in 2010 by the Tennessee Legislature in order to receive a waiver from the federal Department of Education from the requirements of No Child Left Behind.

However, opposition to the national standards arose from divergent points across the political spectrum since its introduction — with those on the Right concerned about federal overreach and those on the left concerned with the impact on students of putting too much emphasis on standardized testing.

Tori Venable, communications director for the Tennessee chapter of Americans for Prosperity — which has long been pushing to kick the standards to the curb — told TNReport Wednesday that the group was satisfied with the proposal, which “is a great stride in the right direction.”

Tennessee’s unique standards-development process will help “push back against the overreach of the federal government,” Venable said.

“We have confidence the standards will be unique to Tennessee and not merely a rebranding of Common Core,” she said.

Not every critic of Common Core is pleased by what’s been signed into law, though.

Shane Vander Hart, of Truth in American Education — a national group that opposes Common Core standards — wrote in April that while the Tennessee legislation constitutes “a positive step in the right direction considering the alternative,” he’s concerned that giving final approval to the state board of educationis an approach that has led in other states to little more than a “rebranding” of the existing national-standards package.

A similar attempt to do away with the standards in Indiana last year has been roundly criticized by anti-Common Core activists as a “warmed-over version” of the national standards.

Alex Harris can be contacted at Alex@TNReport.com.